Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Resistance To Weight Lifting

Photo Credit: drpretty via Compfight cc

Well, now that yesterday's unpleasantness is behind (Ha! "Behind" - see what I did there?) us, we can move on to more important things...

(Crickets chirping.)

Funny, it's the screw-ups that make the best copy, isn't it? There is just not a whole lot of gripping drama to "My stomach seems to have recovered and my blood pressure is a little low." Error makes for better reading than compliance.

So, given that I will probably not be indulging in any humorous diet screw-ups today, I am free to turn my attention to something I should've started last week: resistance exercise.

I had sorta been waiting until I could make it up to the gym at our local community center, but I can see that waiting is not doing me any favors. 70 pounds of weight loss has led to a whole lot of sag. So, rather than waiting until I get out of the house and up to the gym on a regular basis, I am forced to turn my attention back to my fall-back tools for "weight lifting": resistance bands.

I will be the first to tell you, I am not a fan of resistance bands. I feel like they don't provide enough resistance, forcing really high reps to get any kind of significant benefit out of them. I am also not clever/flexible enough to figure out how to use them to target specific muscles, so I end up doing sort of general exercises (like standing rows) instead of muscle-specific ones (like, say, cable pulldowns). Once upon a time, I was a gym rat, and the downshift kinda drives me crazy.

However, doing 50% of something is always preferable to doing 100% of nothing. At least that is what my mother used to say when I would fail to turn in homework assignments back in school. So, I have put together a little resistance band workout that I will try to use 2 or 3 times a week:

  • Chest Presses (To target that hideous mass of loose skin on my pecs)
  • Standing Rows (To try to get some work on my largely ignored back)
  • Shrugs (See if I can develop shoulders again)
  • Overhead triceps extensions (The most awkward of all, as it involves putting a heel on one end of the band then reaching up with the other end.)
  • Bicep curls (Standing with legs spread holding down the center of the band, grabbing the ends in each hand and curling - another weird one.)
  • Forearm curls (Same as before, just engaging only forearms)
  • Crunches ('Cause, abdomen fat/skin)
No legs resistance work here - the 3 - 4 times a week on our single speed bikes is about all the leg work I want or can handle.

Hopefully, this will have some positive result, though I am not holding my breath. I honestly feel like I might as well be doing isometrics instead - the bands provide similar resistance, and isometric exercise doesn't involve trying to jury-rig ways to keep the bands in place. Keeping my fingers crossed.

If anyone out there is successfully using resistance bands, let me know - I am just positive I am doing this all wrong.

Just Waiting Until I Smack Myself With These Oversized Rubber Bands,

- Hawkwind

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Evil That Lurks Within

No, this isn't food porn. Read on.

So, the good news is that I finally broke the "70 pounds" mark for weight loss this week, coming in at 231 this morning.

The bad news is that I probably lost all 4 pounds for the week yesterday, as the result of an exceptionally poor food choice last night.

We have been doing extremely well in our dietary discipline, overall. We have been very diligent about keeping ourselves above 60 grams of protein a day, restricting ourselves to under 20 grams of carbs a meal, and our caloric intake shows it: we generally average right around 800 calories a day. Our logging (with Baritastic) has been consistent, and we are managing about 6 days of exercise a week, with one of us inevitably not wanting to get out of the house on one day of each week.

Yesterday, however, temptation struck.

How bad could it be, really, to have a little ice cream, right? Even marathoners and weight lifters and the like give themselves a day off from their training and dietary regimens, right? So, surely, it will be no big deal if we go out and get ourselves the smallest, tiniest, ice cream (ok, frozen custard) from Freddie's, right?

This, you see, is how rationalization leads to really bad results.

As it turns out, that little tiny ice cream desert I had contained over 600 calories - almost a day's intake, all by itself. It also contained nearly 4 meals worth of carbs (76 grams), 58 grams of which were sugar. On the sort-of bright side, it did contain 10 grams of protein, so there is that, I suppose.

Now, what do you think happens to a recently operated upon stomach that has had almost no exposure to processed sugar for months when you dump one of these little delights into it?

Yeah, let's just say that I didn't walk the dog last night because I was too afraid to get more than 5 steps away from the bathroom.

This was the first time I have thrown up since the surgery, and let me tell you - it is no fun at all. It may be that the stomach is now reduced in size, it may be that things are still healing internally, but it was painful like nobody's business. Then, of course, came the second half of the operation. I was in and out of the potty half a dozen times in about 2 hours. Around visit #3 I stopped worrying about weight gain and starting worrying seriously about dehydration.

So, yeah. Today I can not bear the thought of eating anything. There was some speculation last night that I would wake up craving sugar today, but no siree. You couldn't get a teaspoon of sugar into me without holding me down and shoving it up my nose or something. As it is I have no idea what the heck I am going to eat today that won't make me violently ill again. Hummus, maybe, I could possibly manage plain yogurt. The idea of digesting anything with texture is just not a good one right now.

Bright side? I don't see this happening again, especially as a "reward" for several weeks of good behavior. Amazing, the damage that 4 ounces of ice cream (frozen custard) can do.

But, I lost 4 pounds. So, there's that.

Shooting Pepto-Bismol And Hoping For The Best,

- Hawkwind

Friday, August 26, 2016


As August winds down, the temperature begins dropping as we welcome the winds and rains of the monsoon. Children return to school, and family schedules slowly begin to normalize. Everywhere we go, we can feel the approach of fall in the air - that gentle slowing of movement and metabolism that heralds the oncoming winter season.

Except, of course, in my house. Here we are suddenly bouncing off the walls, getting out of the house more every week than we used to do in any given month. Drive-throughs have been replaced by home-cooked meals, though admittedly very small ones. Long-range planning has suddenly become a concept, where we usually used to only deal with whatever any given day had in store for us.

The schedule around here has certainly changed. I am now getting up around 6 every morning. We head out for a morning bike ride every day, and still walk the dog every evening. Bed time is now closer to 10 - 11 pm, rather than my usual 9 pm. 

It isn't just more time awake, though. Everywhere you look, there are signs of increased energy. Vixen is running around the house, growling and yipping and playing with toys as if she were a puppy again. Lor is pulling out arts and crafts projects that have lain forgotten for years and re-starting work on them. And I am now really writing: instead of hastily writing the blog and then going back to reading or gaming, I am now spending a minimum of 4 hours a day writing, 6 days a week. It is as if someone slipped a permanent vitality potion into our (high protein, low carb) breakfasts each morning.

A dietician will tell you that it is due to the complete shift in the protein:carbohydrate ratio in our diets. A personal trainer will inform you that it is due to the increased amount of exercise we are getting. A doctor might say that it is simply due to losing excess weight and stabilizing our daily nutrients.

I think that these are all at least partially correct answers, but ultimately I think it has more to do with mindset than anything: We are no longer resigned to living with the sedentary lifestyle brought on by my obesity and our other illnesses. Lor and I are suddenly interested in the world outside our front door because we no longer feel ourselves cut off from it. And Vixen is just spastic because, well, Vixen.

It is not all sunshine and roses, of course. Our increased energy expenditure has us now dropping down for naps for a couple of hours every afternoon. We do get to the far side of a long ride or day and look at each other, realizing that we have pushed just a little too hard and now are going to have to struggle to make it home. But this is no different than any other kind of resistance exercise - you push to failure, then next time you are a little bit stronger.

We still have lots of things we want to add - Lor wants to start an aerobics class, I desperately want to get back to the gym. But, I no longer look at those things with a resigned malaise as "may happen some day". I now know, with a little more time investment, we will actually get there.

More Naps May Be Required,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In Transition

(Transition Offense, for those who have no idea what I am referring to here.)

I got to spend some time at ABQ Health Partners Bariatrics yesterday for my 1-month surgical follow-up. My Nurse Practioner, Patricia, laughed at the "oops, I ate bread" story, expressed concern that my blood pressure was too low, and congratulated me on my continued weight loss. She then warned me that a stall might be coming as my diet changed, and then approved me to move to the "regular food" diet - ready to eat any food I wanted, provided I abided by the rules we have been getting hammered into us for the past several weeks. You know: protein first, no liquid before or after meals, less than 20 grams of carbohydrates with any meal in a day.

With that, she released me into the wild. Total time in the office: 19 minutes.

I stood blinking in the sunlight outside the office, my head swimming at how quickly everything took place, and then realized that I was, finally, able to start eating like a normal person again. Admittedly, a normal person who eats 4-ounce meals that take 30 minutes to ingest, but, you know, mostly normal. 

So...now what?

We briefly discussed going out to a restaurant to celebrate, but after the Panera disaster on Saturday I was not really feelin' it. Other than steakhouses and seafood joints, I could not think of any restaurants who specialized in high-protein, low carbohydrate fare, so I decided to just skip it. Instead, we headed to the grocery store.

Where I bought greek yogurt. With fruit in it.

I remember 6 weeks ago, Lor's absolute delight in wandering the aisles of Trader Joe's and buying all these items she had been missing, and felt kind of jealous. I felt no sense of joy, really. No overwhelming relief that the worst was past and now I could start enjoying my new diet. Mainly, I felt panic. How was I going to handle 60 grams of protein a day without using protein shakes? I felt like someone had taken the training wheels off my dietary bicycle, and I was now teetering precariously as I rolled down the street.

So, instead of a celebratory meal, I had a P3 instead:

12 grams of protein, and roasted meats, hard cheese,and nuts - all things that have been denied me for weeks now. That settled me down the way a stiff drink used to. Heck, eat three of these a day, with two yogurts for snacks, and I am already upwards of 50 grams of protein, right? Nothing to this 60 grams a day thing!

Then, for dinner, came Lor's secret weapon. It turns out she had been planning for weeks to make us a pizza to celebrate my return to real food. Not just any kind of pizza, though - a pizza whose crust was made out of baked ground chicken.

Yeah, let that settle in for a bit. It is a real thing: Chicken Crust Pizza.

Except, instead of going all "veggie friendly", Lor piled it with beef marinara, Canadian bacon, regular bacon, and fresh mozzarella. A single slice of this heavenly marvel came in at a whopping 23 Protein, with only 4 Carbs. The best way I can describe the taste of the crust is a deep dish pizza crust cooked in an oven at the same time as a roasting chicken. We (barely) managed a slice each. (Mind you, each slice is about half the size of a standard slice of pizza. So, yeah, pretty nutrient-dense.)

So, yeah, maybe this "real food" thing will work out after all.

Now I Am Ready To Go Back To The Grocery Store,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Uncomfortable Answers

In the weeks leading up to and following our surgeries, Lor and I have become the friends and family ambassadors representing the nation of bariatric surgery. Sometimes the questions are asked in front of everyone at public gatherings, sometimes whispered as soon as no one is around, but the requests for more information keep on coming. The procedure itself is somewhat mysterious, and people are filled with curiosity.

For the most part, this is excellent - clearing up misconceptions about the procedure and the lifestyle changes that accompany it is probably the best way Lor and I can "pay it forward" for an experience that has had such a positive life-altering affect on us. We have friends and family members who are either considering or going through bariatric surgery and being able to help them along is awesome. Heck, I even write a blog about it, to get the information out there. We want this info to be spread far and wide.

But...there are a few questions that come up (and frequently get repeated) that demonstrate the misunderstandings surrounding bariatric surgery. And the answers admittedly don't feel real good when we know that someone is hoping that our answer will be exactly the opposite of what the truth is. It always makes me sad that someone who is considering bariatric surgery asks me a question that I know will immediately turn them away from looking into it any further. But, in for a penny, in for a pound - here are a few of those uncomfortable answers:

"Aren't you hungry all the time?": No...and yes. Let me explain. If I allow myself to dwell on thinking about food, I will crave it. It is as simple as that. Smells are an especially strong trigger for me - I can't smell pizza without wanting to eat one. Like, a whole pizza, I mean. But if I walk away, and think about something else, within 5 minutes or so I am no longer hungry. The hunger is not being generated by my digestive system at all (which is remarkably quiet if I don't expose myself to pizza), but by my mind. It is pretty weird, admittedly.

"If I have the surgery, when can I get back to eating normally?": By FAR the most common question we get asked. And the short answer is: Never. The surgery does not create a black hole in your abdomen that allows you to eat whatever the heck you want without consequences. The Lap-band, Sleeve, and Pouch all perform varying degrees of the same effect: negative reinforcement. There is less available space in your stomach, so you eat less. I personally find the sleeve superior (for me) because it also removes the majority of your ghrelin-producing stomach from your body completely. No hunger hormones mean no constant craving for food. (Something that plagued me for years before the surgery - I was literally hungry 100% of the time.)

"So, when can I start drinking Cokes/drinking alcohol/eating Krispy Kreme again?": Whatever the trigger food, we all want to know when we can start hitting it again. For some, it is soft drinks, for others ice cream. I, for example, will probably crave beer for the rest of my life. And the probable answer is "Never." Cokes and beer can't be had due to the side effect of carbonation expanding the area in the pouch, creating more room for food. But those Krispy Kremes and McDonald's french fries? They should be avoided as well, because it is so easy to vault off the rails and eat way too many of them at one sitting. They pass through the digestive track so quickly that you will never get full - leaving you eventually with an empty box of donuts and a feeling that you have just done a really bad thing.

"Really? I have to quit drinking?" Alcohol is no longer taking a pleasant 20-30 minutes to work its way into your system. It is no galloping through the stomach straight to your liver and then to your brain. One or two drinks is all it will take to get you very, very inebriated. And here is the real danger - we became obese because of addictive elements in our personality. It is so very easy to switch addictions from food to alcohol. The numbers of alcoholic bariatric patients are extremely high for this very reason.

"Will I have to exercise, like, every day?" Yup, afraid so. There are many stories of failed bariatric surgeries out there, each with their own sad tale about why the patient fell off the wagon and ate themselves back to obesity. Those stories all have one common element - these people stopped moving, and started eating. Exercise is critically important to the success of bariatric surgery - it not only keeps your metabolism up, but it also reminds you on a daily basis that you are doing this for a reason. As soon as you stop exercising, you will start regaining. It is as simple as that.

"Man, it sounds like your life sucks. Why would anyone have this surgery?" The saddest question of all - the questioner has given up on the idea of surgery now that they have been convinced that it is not going to be easy.

And, they are right - it isn't easy. But giving up the foods I loved was not something I could do on my own. It required external intervention to push me over that hump. And now, I may never have a Guinness or a chocolate cream pie again.

Instead, I can touch my toes. I can sit down without waiting for a chair to break. I can (almost) keep up with Lor and Vixen on our daily walks. I have spent more time socializing in the past 6 months than I did in the previous 6 years - once food ceased being the #1 priority in my life, room for a whole lot of other priorities was created.

Now, my life no longer sucks due to obesity. And that is why I had bariatric surgery.

Heck, I Might Even Get To Drink Real Coffee Again,

- Hawkwind

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Revenge of the Carbohydrates

In which I engage the ancient enemy of all bariatric patients.

Today brings us to exactly 4 weeks since I went under the scopes to have my "sleeve" procedure completed. I have not been at all unhappy with my progress. Mainly, I have found that life is now an exercise in patience. I still can not reliably ride the new bike any distance, so I am walking every day instead. I suffer from the problem of not being able to stand for longer than 3 hours at a time, but am informed that this is due to my current loss of muscle mass as well as fat, so I have to sit and rest frequently. My energy reserves are depleting quickly, thanks to my new, higher expenditures of energy, and I am having to nap for an hour or two every day to compensate. All of this still represents progress: while I was morbidly obese, I never stood or moved enough for any of these issues to come up in the first place. (Now, at 235 pounds, I am merely "seriously" obese.)

The area where I have not been very patient is with food - specifically, the kinds of foods that I am experimenting with. I am technically not released to a "normal" diet until two days from today, but that has not stopped me from having a nibble here and a taste there of various non-soft foods to see what type of effect they might have on me. Lor has been filled with dire warnings and ominous predictions, but I have found that just about everything I have tried has worked out fine. I am sure that this has been frustrating to her, since she is still working through re-acclimating to certain foods, but I seemed to be having no such issues.

This all came to a screeching halt on Saturday. For our anniversary, we went to a local event, went shopping at thrift stores, and then decided to cap everything off with lunch somewhere. We selected Panera, thinking that there were several menu selections that were fairly low-carb, or could be made so. Lor selected a chowder and a salad, I picked a turkey and avocado sandwich and chicken noodle soup, with every intention of deconstructing it when it arrived and only eating the shredded turkey and avocado. (I have discovered that shredded turkey is palatable if it is dosed with salad dressing or mayonnaise.) We also ordered large to-go boxes, knowing that we would have to take the majority of our meals home with us for consumption later.

However, once the dishes arrived, something came over me. The fresh bread (something Panera specializes in) looked and smelled delicious. Surely, I thought, I can have a bite or two of the entire sandwich? After all, nothing else I have tried has given me any kind of serious gastric distress, right? Emboldened by my self-justification, I took a small bite.

And chewed. And chewed. And chewed some more. No matter how hard I tried, or how long I chewed, I could not get this bread down to the consistency of "applesauce" that gastric patients are supposed to reduce their food to before swallowing. After a full minute of chewing, I realized I was going to have to make a decision - spit the food out into a napkin, or go ahead and swallow.

I am male - which do you think I did? 

The moment the bite arrived in my pouch, I knew I was in trouble. It landed with what I could have sworn was an audible "thud", and then I could feel it beginning to expand. Within a few seconds, I was sure I had swallowed a bowling ball. I was desperately afraid of throwing up at this point - because I was positive that this mass of food that had suddenly appeared in my stomach would never fit through the esophagus on its way back up. I did my best to sit very still, hoping the mass would settle, and not come erupting out of my chest like an Alien baby.

Lor looked across the table at me, concerned. "Your eyes are watering - are you ok?" she asked. I nodded, afraid to disrupt the delicate balance in my abdomen by speaking. She looked more closely at me, then shook her head. "It was too much for you, wasn't it?" I nodded again, wondering why on Earth I had been so stupid as to try this stunt.

After a few minutes, things did finally settle down, but the feeling that I had swallowed a rock would not leave me for several hours. I sheepishly packed up the remainder of the sandwich in the to-go box and had a few sips of my broth while I waited for Lor to finish her lunch. Graciously, she never said "I told you so" even once.

Needless to say, I later turned the turkey and avocado into something resembling tuna salad, and threw away the bread and lettuce in disgust. When our Nutritionist clears me on Wednesday, I will pay very close attention to my food restrictions, and do my best to not give myself a heart attack in public again by tackling expandable carbs like white bread.

That's what I am telling myself now, anyway.

I May Never Look At A Loaf Of Bread The Same Way Again,

- Hawkwind

Friday, August 19, 2016

3 Decades (And Counting)

Melissa in 1986. Someone should have warned her what she was signing up for.

It has become a regular feature on my blogs to have a little chat about my relationship with my wife (Lor/Melissa) every year on our anniversary. Many people find it charming or romantic, she finds it embarrassing, I find I am simply compelled to do it by the urging of my inner voices.

This year is a little different for a lot of reasons. The last several months have brought us both through bariatric surgery, not because either of us was concerned about our physical appearance, but because we both wanted to extend the potential time we had together. The experience has brought us even closer together than we were, as we have become one another's partners through this process - each acting as a combination of cheerleader and drill instructor for the other. Every member of our surgical team was delighted to hear that we would be going through the process together, because couples enjoy a much higher long-term success rate from bariatric surgery than others. Now, I can see why.

However, this year is also special because it represents a landmark year for our relationship. You see, in 1986, I took a gorgeous 15-year old out on our first date. Within a couple of weeks, we were "going out", as we used to call it back when we were in high school. This year, 2016, actually represents our 30th year together.

When we were married 2 years later, in 1988, I had just turned 18 and she had only been 17 for a few months. We were so young that we spent the next decade or so raising each other. I still can remember the conversation with her mother when Melissa turned 35, when my Mother-in-Law congratulated me on having had her daughter for longer than she did. And, while many couples lament not getting to spend enough time with each other, my illnesses and Melissa's caretaking has placed us in close proximity to each other almost 24/7 for the past 9 years. I can safely state that I have spent more time with Melissa than with any other human being - by a pretty good margin.

Today, we have a very different future to look forward to than we did a year ago. Her diabetes numbers remain very low, and she may be in remission completely. Weight loss has improved my seizure control. We have bought a house. Slowly, we are emerging into what most of the country thinks of as a "normal" life. And none of it would be possible if not for her unflagging patience and self-sacrifice over the past 30 (!) years.

Thank you, Melissa, for everything you are and have done for us over the past 3 decades. I wish I knew what I did to deserve you, because I would do it again in a heartbeat. And here's to the potential of loving you for another 30 years.

Best 30 Years Ever,

- Jeremy

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wardrobe Malfunction

(Remote Posting Means No Pretty Pictures Today. Imagine Fluffy Kittens or something.)

It was something we were warned about, but I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to. Clothing, that is. All around the bariatric community, there are tips on clothing sales, recommendations for thrift stores, even clothing exchanges - but what the heck did I care about such things? I had a closet full of t-shirts, and a drawer full of "goal" clothes that had been picked up for me by my mother-in-law at garage sales over the years. Surely, I was covered, right?

The first rumbling of potential crisis happened when we met my parents to buy Lor's bike. My mother mentioned that my Dad hadn't recognized me at first, which filled me with pride and accomplishment. Then I was deflated by Mom's next comment - "And that shirt! It looks like a tent on you!"

Meant as a sincere compliment, this dismissal of my favorite t-shirt warned me that trouble was on the horizon. Lor has been telling me for weeks that my existing wardrobe is getting a little too large even for fashion-unconscious me. Later on, at home, I pulled another favorite shirt off a hanger and put it on in front of a mirror. I was startled and depressed to notice it now hit me right above the knees. I looked like I was trying to wear a miniskirt. Clearly, it was time for the wardrobe intervention that Lor had been hinting at.

An hour's worth of trying on clothes later, I was completely disheartened. Fully half my shirts no longer fit me "well". I could hang on to them and accept the "tent" look for now, but I was going to have to start cycling them out. I now had exactly 4 t-shirts that were sized correctly. Dress shirts and sweaters and the like? Not a single one fits me right any longer.

But the really depressing part was the drawer where I keep my jeans. I knew my beloved carpenter jeans would no longer work, because they were 48-inch waistlines. I had cleverly hidden a few 44-inch pants in the bottom of the drawers, planning against today, when I could proudly pull them out and show them to Lor, demonstrating my genius and foresight.

But not a single one of them fit, either. I had missed my window. These brand new jeans I had been waiting to wear for years would have to be worn by someone else - they literally slid right off my hips and onto the floor. I tried on every pair of pants I owned, creating a "donate" pile, and anticipating that I would replace the ones that fit into my drawer.

That drawer now stands completely empty, by the way.

Thank goodness it is summer and I can still wear shorts. We went to the local (bariatric group recommeded) thrift store and were able to find a few pairs of 40-inch waistline shorts. (Bafflingly, 40-inch pants did not fit, but shorts did.) The fact that I was now within 2 inches of my decades-long goal of a 38-inch waistline was not as nearly as exciting as it should have been - it was more than offset by the fact that I was having to go clothes shopping - and I knew that, within a few weeks, I was going to have to do it again. I was not buying these clothes, really. Just sort of renting them.

Thanks to my LootCrate subscription, I can count on one new geek-themed shirt a month, but I can only wear a shirt so many times in a month before it develops holes. The same vanity that used to force me to only wear sweats rather than buy 50-inch waistline pants is now operating in reverse - I refuse to buy sweats to wear instead of shorts or jeans. What is the point of losing weight just so I can wear nothing but track pants?

Or shirts that fit like tents for that matter?

Cursing The Day I Became Fashion-Aware,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Me vs.The Bike

On Saturday, Lor finally found her bike.

It is really about that simple. She has been looking at Cruiser (or "Beach") Bikes for months now, wanting something simple, without complicated shifters and brakes, that we could use around our neighborhood. I have been...less enthusiastic, as the last bike I owned I ended up having to give to my brother because my ass wouldn't fit on the seat. But, no harm in letting her look, right?

A well-meaning person on one of our bariatric surgery boards posted a picture of a bike that was currently on sale at Sam's Club. It was a single speed cruiser, it had a basket and a luggage rack, and it was on sale for half of its retail price. Oh, and it was the exact color of Lor's new Ford Escape:

I don't need to explain what happened next, do I?

It was a little more complicated than "we went and bought it". Turns out not all Sam's Club's carry bicycles. I spent half an hour checking web sites until I found a local outlet that had this particular bike. Then I had to check store hours - the impulse to buy had overcome Lor at 7 pm. Then came the next problem - we are not Sam's Club members. I called my ever-reliable parents, who gave up their evening of Olympic viewing so they could drive down and meet us at the local Sam's Club to help us procure the bike. My Dad was even gracious enough to load the bike into the back of his truck, reminding me that I was not supposed to be lifting anything over 10 pounds yet, then delivered the box to our home.

Assembly was supposed to take under 15 minutes. 2 hours later, we finally had a bicycle whose seat pointed straight up in the air, and whose front tire rubbed against the fender. Discouraged and prepared to return the bike the next day, we gave up and went to bed.

Daybreak brought some insight - the fender had come out of the box bent. I contacted the manufacturer, and they were happy to send us a new one. In the meantime, the bicycle worked perfectly well without a front fender. A seat adjustment and Lor was ready to go.

But, by now, the fever had overcome me. I now had visions of doubling or tripling the range of our daily walks. Bicycles made everything faster and easier, right? I needed to get one too, so that we could ride together, right? $80 dollars later, I had a Huffy of my very own - cleverly pre-assembled at Wal-Mart. I spent several curse-worthy moments in the parking lot figuring out how to load it into our SUV, then we drove it home.

At last, we each had our own bikes - situated at the top of our downward-sloping driveway. We put on bike helmets, hopped aboard our bikes, and then argued back and forth for a few minutes about who was going to ride first. I finally lost the argument, and shakily pedaled down the driveway into the street.

Now, the problem arose. I have never owned a bike with "coaster brakes" before. I don't know how they work. I frantically grabbed the handlebars looking for my invisible brake handles. They never appeared, and I ran into the curb across from our house at about 5 miles an hour, dumping the bike (and me) into the street.

After Lor coaxed me back to my feet and convinced me not to just throw the bike into our trash can, we decided to take a short ride, just down the road and back. We know from our walking routes that this works out to about a quarter of a mile. Easy peasy, yes?

As it turns out, no. Downhill was great. But once we turned around and came back uphill, things got bad quickly. My legs wobbled. My breath wheezed. I could not see for the red fog engulfing my eyes. And, worst of all, I could now suddenly feel 5 sharp, burning pokers in my abdomen - right at the sites of my incisions from 3 weeks ago.

This was a Cruiser bike - not a ten-speed. There was no way to shift into a lower gear. I proceeded back up the hill at a pace slower than walking, forcing each leg down by gravity, powered only by pride and determination. Lor, of course, was already back at the house waiting for me.

So, it turns out that biking is a great exercise because it engages all your core muscles - not just your legs. Who knew? After staggering back into the house, I immediately took my first pain meds since leaving the hospital, then lay down in front of a fan and waited for the pretty lights to go away. 

So, the bike is now sitting in the garage, plotting nefariously against me and my next ride attempt. I am faced with the reality that I may have to institute an exercise program in order to become strong enough to use the bike that I bought to exercise with. De-pressing.

My Kingdom For Shimano Shifters And Brakes That Work,

- Hawkwind

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Trouble With Dining (With Friends)

Image courtesy of Two Fools Tavern

Saturday night one of our dear friends celebrated her birthday. We were invited to share in the celebration, and we cautiously agreed to go and participate in what would be our first major social outing since our surgeries.

Initially, everything was wonderful. Much was made of our improved physiques, we answered tons of questions about the surgeries, and in general we got to feel like goodwill ambassadors for bariatric surgery. There were even a few quiet questions about how to get more information about having surgery in the first place. We directed a few folks here to Misdirected, glowing in the radiance of deeds well done.

When we were seated, however, things took a bit of a turn. The London pub-style restaurant seemed to feature nothing but foods that were breaded, or fried, or both. It advertised "the best fish and chips in Albuquerque". I am a huge fan of fish and chips and, sadly, will probably never get to enjoy the dish again. Everywhere I looked, tables were covered with pint glasses filled with Guinness - my all-time favorite beer, and another item that has been permanently removed from my personal menu. Suddenly, I was uncomfortable. 

The menu wasn't helpful. Remember, I am still in the "soft foods" phase of my diet, which means I was not able to just order one their extraordinarily-sized portions and then take the majority home to dine on for the next 4 or 5 days. I kept checking potential entrees with Lor, only to have her veto them as not qualifying as "soft foods". Today, I am happy that she did so. Saturday night...not so much.

Eventually, the menu-related distress was apparent to the guest of honor, who was suddenly horrified. "I completely forgot! Can you even eat anything here?" was her response. I was positive that I was about to single-handedly wreck her birthday celebration, and fervently wished I had just stayed home with my baby food and protein shakes.

I took a deep breath, and told her the truth - that we have been practicing for occasions like this for six months now. This very situation is what the pre-surgical nutritional training is all about. We had chosen to make these changes, and we knew how to make our new diets work even in places without a "low-carb/low-calorie" menu.

Crisis averted, I ordered a cup of beef stew while Lor selected a salad. Lor managed about ten bites of her huge salad. I drank most of my beef broth, had a couple of bites of soft potato and shredded beef, avoided all the still firm vegetables, and I was done. My total intake was probably 3 ounces.

But, as dinner wound up, I looked over the table, covered in take-out boxes and the remains of huge burgers, 6-inch deep Shepherd's Pie, and piles of french fries surrounding fried fish, and had a startling realization: 6 months ago, I would have eaten an entire one of these entrees, and helped Lor finish hers. No take-out boxes for that version of me, no sir. 

That version of me would have wolfed everything down in twenty minutes, and then gone home to play World of Warcraft or watch television.

This version of me ate sparingly and slowly, allowing me to carry on conversations and meet a group of new, interesting people, and continue to socialize with them until nearly midnight.

I know which "me" I prefer.

Still Sad Over The Guinness, Though,

- Hawkwind

Friday, August 12, 2016

Non-Scale Victories

There is a whole new language incorporated into learning any new skill or interest. Mortgage lenders and borrowers must learn what is meant by APY and ARMs. Baseball players and fans have to dig into things thing OBP and RBI. And bariatric surgery patients need to ask someone what in the heck is meant by things like RNY and NSV.

NSV is one of the big ones for those of us on the far side of bariatric surgery. It stands for "Non-Scale Victory." Too many of us get completely focused on what our latest scale reading tells us, and don't pay attention to all of the other benefits that come along with the changed lifestyle that results from successful bariatric surgery and maintenance. Weight is important, sure. But weight numbers can stop dropping for a period of time (or "stall") as your body reconfigures itself. And wouldn't you hate to be so fixated on the fact that you've been stuck at a particular weight for a couple of weeks that you completely miss the fact that your waistline is suddenly down two inches?

NSVs don't even necessarily have to be about physical appearance. Maybe you can now walk to the top of a hill you couldn't before. Perhaps you've decided to take up biking for the first time since you were in junior high. It could be that you've made the decision to go to a reunion for the first time when you have skipped all the previous ones because you didn't want your classmates to see how much weight you had put on. NSVs come in various forms, and all are worth celebrating and sharing.

I have had a few myself. Some were appearance related: I can no longer wear 48-inch waist bottoms, for example. They fall right off me, even with a belt attempting to keep them up. Others are a little more practical - I was able to get out and work in my disaster area of a yard yesterday, trying to bring order out of months' worth of chaos. No gasping, no feeling faint, no needing to stop every 5 minutes to make sure I didn't fall over. It felt good to be able to actually finish a project, instead of leaving it only partway completed, to be finished "later". (Read: "never".)

My most profound NSV, though, has been entirely mental. For 12 years now, I have been shackled by the twin handicaps of epilepsy and obesity: a one-two punch that has not only interfered with my abilities to accomplish much, but has also drained away my confidence. Why even try, I have thought - I won't ever be able to succeed.

The beginning of the weight-loss process also brought about a change in my thinking. If I can really stick through this whole process, I thought, actually get rid of almost half my body weight, well, then - what can't I do? I was wise enough to not wait to "prove" anything to myself, but to start trying to succeed at something completely unrelated to weight loss, that I have wanted to do my whole life: writing professionally.

Since that decision was made, I have successfully published several articles, ghost written some blog posts, and, of course, switched Misdirected over to focusing on weight-loss rather than gaming. The results have been awesome. But the most exciting part is that I have been selected by Fiction Vortex to create one of their "serial boxes" - serialized science fiction and fantasy novels, released in 10 episodes over a period of 10 months. The writing is great, the stories are outstanding - and I get to be a part of it. My series is slated to be starting in January of 2017, and I can hardly wait - even though I haven't finished writing it yet.

Is this an NSV? You bet it is: if not for the decision to pursue weight loss surgery, I would never have had the confidence to put myself out there as an author. Proving to myself that I could go through the preliminary diet changes, go through the surgery, and then commit to the lifestyle changes that will be required showed me that I am not hopelessly broken: I can still pursue dreams, just a little more slowly than most people. If I never lose another pound from this point forward, it will still have been worth it.

Though, just for future reference, I apparently still have about 60 pounds of weight loss to go. But, you know, that would be a "Scale Victory". 

Proof That You CAN Teach An Old Dog New Tricks,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The "Expanded" Menu

Image courtesy of Marinela Wood

There has been quite a bit of discussion in our household over the past few weeks about the results of my surgery vs. the results of Lor's. For the first two weeks post-surgery, Lor was unable to drink protein shakes consistently, had trouble staying hydrated, and was extremely uncomfortable. Heck, it took her three weeks of recovery before she was even able to finish a single container of yogurt.

I, on the other hand, have had no such restrictions. I was able to down a full yogurt container the day after I got home from the hospital. I am able to drink an entire water bottle in under 10 minutes (if I am not paying attention) without any discomfort. I even re-started several oral medications a few days early (with my surgical staff's permission, mind you), again, without any kind of feeling of blockage.

Being myself, I developed a fabulous conspiracy theory: I had not actually undergone the surgery. They had just taken me back to the operating room, punched 5 holes in my abdomen, pumped me full of gas, and then left the OR for an early lunch. It was the only reasonable explanation for why I was having none of the diet-related side effects I had been warned about (and that Lor was experiencing.)

Silly conspiracy theories aside, it was obvious something was different between the two of us, so I went into yesterday's appointment full of confidence and optimism. Maybe I wouldn't even have to go through the soft foods phase since I was doing so well! They might put a little gold star on my chart and release me into the world of steak and lobster!

Turns out Dr. Tyner was not so impressed with my abilities to power through liquids like a boss. His theory was that I was being affected by luck, not extraordinary healing skills. People's internal organs swell at a different rate post-surgery, and while he thought Lor had gone through a normal "swelling" phase, I had gone through a reduced amount of swelling, giving enough room in my innards for liquids to shoot right through the system, I was going to run into a serious roadblock the minute I tried solid foods, even soft ones.

I left the doctor's office with the clearance to start on soft foods and a firm admonishment by our nutritionist to really bear down on protein intake - things had gone so easily for me up to this point, I was really going to have to change my thinking about intake. I left with my head held high, confident that my previous experience of the last 2 weeks was going to repeat itself, that no matter how much I ate, I would be able to handle it.

Turns out that there is a reason that I am not a doctor and Dr. Tyner is.

My first soft-foods meal, 2 tablespoons of scrambled eggs and ricotta, with a tablespoon of mashed banana, had the exact effect I anticipated - no problem ingesting, no feeling of fullness. I began to privately speculate about potentially ingesting more than the mandated "3 Tablespoon" meal size.

Then dinner arrived. 2 tablespoons of salmon, and 2 slices of avocado. I obeyed all the rules, putting the fork down between bites, chewing thoroughly, waiting at least a full minute between bites. I noticed immediately that the salmon had some texture and density to it that my first meal hadn't. 2 Tablespoons took me over 20 minutes to eat. But I still wasn't full! Gleefully, I dove into the avocado.

2 bites in, I suddenly had a problem. I literally felt as if someone had pushed a cork into my esophagus, right where it enters the stomach. I instantly was aware that, not only could I not have taken another bite, but it was going to take some serious focus to not revisit the last 20+ minutes worth of work heading the other direction. So, apparently, I had undergone the surgery after all. Bummer.

To complete my disheartening discoveries, I punched in my day's intake into my Bariatastic app and found out some really bad news. My new "soft food" diet had resulted in only 35 grams of protein all day long. Epic fail.

I guess protein shakes and I haven't broken up yet after all.

Not Entirely The Results I Was Looking For,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


So, let's give it up for protein shakes: they have single-handedly kept me from suffering the effects of malnutrition for the last 4 weeks + 2 days.


Now that that's out of the way, let's have a chat about tomorrow, shall we?

I finally go in for my 2-week post-op exam tomorrow, the one that allows me to reintroduce "soft foods" into my diet. I quiver with antici-pation. (Either you get it, or you don't.)  I never in my life would have believed that I could be this excited about the theoretical concept of eating a scrambled egg.

Lor's recovery was a bit different - she really did not feel she had "arrived" until 4 weeks out from surgery, where she was able to return to a diet of normal foods. For her, a trip to Trader Joe's where she bought the next week's worth of real food was her finish line. (Of course, she is still working on eating that week's worth of food, 4 weeks later. Adjustment to new portion size comes slowly.)

Somehow, for me, tomorrow feels like it will be a major accomplishment. Maybe because my tastes are a little broader than Lor's, or maybe I am just more desperate than she was. She spent her two weeks of soft foods living on refried beans and frittatas. Those will also be a part of my diet, of course, but I am really looking forward to so many other soft foods:

  • Mashed potatoes (not normally part of the bariatric diet, but perfectly legal for the next two weeks.)
  • Creamy Peanut Butter (OMG, peanut butter, how I have missed you.)
  • Soups and Chowders (Clam Chowder, here I come!)
  • Canned seafood, like tuna and salmon. (Yum!) Even canned chicken is legal, though I have always thought canned chicken smells like cat food, so I am less excited about it.
  • Vegetables and fruits, reduced to the consistency of applesauce. So, baby food, essentially. But I can totally get behind some mashed bananas and pureed nectarines. Pureed broccoli or asparagus - maybe not so much.
  • And, the big one for me, soft cheeses. I will learn to eat cottage cheese, but I already love ricotta on just about anything. Protein boost + taste - what is not to like?
I am not sure if things like egg salad or guacamole are legal, but I will be asking about them tomorrow for sure.

The other BIG re-addition to the diet? Spices! I can start using mustards, mayonnaise, peppers, salt, cayenne, hot sauce...you get the picture. Finally, tasting my food will return to my life even if crunch isn't due for another couple of weeks. I am definitely at the point now where it doesn't even matter which protein shake I get out of the fridge - they all taste pretty much the same anymore.

Now, as to the protein shake diet around the surgery, I have to say this: it works. The day I began the liquid diet I weighed 261 pounds. Yesterday I weighed in at 241.

20 pounds in 4 weeks works out to losing 5 pounds a week. Those numbers are nothing to take lightly. So, despite my threats to eat the dog, and desire to gnaw my own arm off, it was worth it in the long run. Thank goodness. I would hate to have gone through this and gained weight.

The Dog Would Have Been Too Stringy Anyway,

- Hawkwind

Monday, August 8, 2016

Time To Get A Move On!

Photo Credit: One Candle Photos via Compfight cc

In the midst of preparing for my exit from the all-liquid diet in a couple days, I have also noticed a curious impatience within myself - not necessarily to start eating again (though that is a major factor), but to be done.  Not to be finished with my new lifestyle and eating patterns, mind you - unless I fall off the wagon and stay there, these changes should be life-long. But to actually feel like I have accomplished something.

I know, I know - I have already dropped 60+ pounds. My clothes are falling off my body as I walk around the house. I haven't needed my knee brace since I came home from the hospital. These are all positive and laudable things. I get that.

But, when I look in the mirror, nothing looks any different to me. When I look at Lor, I can see major positive changes to her body. (Hoo, boy, can I ever.) I look at myself in the mirror and see only that my face is showing more wrinkles and I am losing my hair. I mean, seriously  - at 240 pounds, I am still 80 pounds overweight. So, yeah. I am starting to get a little impatient.

The surgical recovery period isn't helping my mental state any. I am still not permitted to move anything heavier than 10 pounds, and boy does it show. My arms and legs have never been flabbier. My sleep patterns are shot. (I started working on this article at 3 AM, for example.) And my blood pressure, which we had really hoped would be addressed by the surgery, has skyrocketed the last few days, and I am back on blood pressure meds. Very disappointing.

The walking is getting better, at least. Last night should've been our first 1-mile walk since our surgeries, but we were interrupted by rain and a power outage across the neighborhood. Even so, we managed half a mile of walking just running errands and grocery shopping, so the day wasn't a total loss. Today we'll get a mile. By the beginning of next week, we'll probably be up to a mile and a half a day. (We're adding about a tenth of a mile every day.) But even yesterday, unloading groceries from the car (one bag at a time, mind you), I could feel twinges from my incision sites. The fact that everything is not healed up yet is really frustrating to me, despite the fact that I am only 2 weeks out from surgery today.

In a way, it is reminiscent of being a child and counting down that last month until Christmas or Summer vacation - every hour that passes takes a day, every week that passes seems like a month. I am so ready to be able to eat real food, to work out, to look in the mirror and actually see someone different. Encouragement from everyone around me has been awesome - but there is still my personal sense that I am only wearing the Emperor's New Clothes. I am ready for something more tangible.

Let's Get This Show On The Road,

- Hawkwind

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Game Of Inches

Photo Credit: Max Garçia via Compfight cc

(Warning: Young children, those easily offended, and those preferring not to engage in/read about human reproductive activity should probably just skip today's blog. You have been warned!)

During your bariatric surgery preparations, and probably forever afterwards, you are going to be friends with the measuring tape. You will get to be astonished as you watch your hips and stomach shrink due to fat reduction, and depressed as your arms and calves do the same things due to muscle loss. It is a useful tool to keep track of unexpected muscle loss, ongoing fat burning, and (eventually) stabilization as your body gets used to your new digestive system and dietary practices.

However, I have been noticing in recent weeks that, while most of me is reducing in size, one area in particular is apparently gaining. Positive that I must just be hallucinating, I went in search of answers.

And I found some very startling ones: apparently weight loss in males has an unusual side effect - for every 30 pounds of weight (or so) lost, the apparent size of the penis grows by about an inch. Now, I know from my limited understanding of biology that the human genitalia isn't supposed to get larger over time - what you have is what you have. (Look up "penis enlargement" some time on Google to see how popular the subject is.) So, what gives?

It works something like this: Imagine a six-foot pole, set up as a fence post so that only 5 feet of it are exposed. If the fence isn't maintained, dirt, leaves, and other debris gather around the base of the pole. Enough gathering of "stuff" around the base, and eventually you can only see the top 2 feet or so of the post. When your spouse gets after you enough and you get out in the back yard with your rake and your shovel, after a few hours you can see all 5 feet again.

So, the post is the male genitalia, the debris is the fatty deposits in your abdomen (due to your lack of maintenance), and the rake and shovel are your surgery and your lifestyle changes. All of a sudden, that fence post appears to be growing.

Every 30 pounds of weight loss works out to exposure of another inch of your equipment that had previously been inaccessible due to fatty deposits. As of today (I checked) I was down to 240 pounds - a total loss of 62 pounds since I started this process.

I will let you do the math.

But, the really startling thing is that I am not done losing weight yet. My target weight (according to my doctor, mind you) is 185 pounds! That is nearly twice what I have lost already. Seriously, now - a potential weight loss of 117 pounds, divided by 30 works out to 3.9 inches! Imagine the possibilities...

Now why, for heaven's sake, is this not being marketed as one of the major benefits of weight loss surgery? It was never mentioned to me by anyone on my surgical team. I have frequently remarked on the lack of males undergoing this process - roughly 2 men to every 8 women go through with bariatric surgery. Talk up the fact that you can increase the size of your equipment as a result of this surgery and there will be lines of men out the door and around the corner waiting to sign up.

That's just how men are. Despite what all the pundits and well-meaning sexual partners may tell you, size matters. Heck, did anyone watch the Republican debates? These were men competing to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, comparing sizes on national television. It isn't just for locker rooms in high school.

Bariatric surgery needs to get behind this as a marketing device immediately. You know, for the health and well-being of all my fellow overweight men.

Yeah, we'll go with that.

Patting Myself On The...Back For Having Weight-Loss Surgery,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Return of the Five-Toed Sloth

Photo Credit: Michelleyyy via Compfight cc

10 days out from surgery, and today I am a complete wreck. I am hunched over as if I were 92 years old with osteoporosis. My shoulders burn as if I threw a 100+ pitch baseball game last night. The top of my abdomen radiates pain whenever I walk or shift in my chair.

I must've really hit the weights yesterday, right? Started my new ultra-marathon workout a few weeks too early, tried kayaking for the first time, or something of equal exertion to have this kind of physical reaction the next day?

Yeah, actually I walked 3/4 of a mile last night.

Now, mind you, this is an improvement from the previous night, where we only covered .65 of a mile. But still, man. I can not believe that 2 months ago we were walking 2 miles every day and were discussing ways to disengage the dog from our walks so we could really start stretching things out. Even after Lor's surgery, I was still managing 1+ mile walks with the dog every day, even during the pre-surgical "all liquids/no-calories" phase. Now after two days of walking back-to-back, I am ready to take pain meds, call the chiropractor, and sign up for reconstructive surgery. On my entire body, mind you.

We fail to understand (at least I did) just how important the "core" muscles in our midsection really are. There is a reason baseball players, marathoners, divers, etc. pay so much attention to things like pilates, yoga, and other core-strengthening exercises. Those muscles which are currently hunching me forward are the attachment points for all the other musculature in the body - the things that enable us to synergise what is happening in our lower bodies with what we are doing with our upper bodies and arms. And, now that I have 5 slowly mending holes in those core muscles, I am feeling the effects everywhere else in my physique as muscles that used to be gaining traction from elsewhere in my body are being forced to "go it alone" as it were. Isolation exercises, but not in a good way.

The speed is the really depressing part. Right before our back-to-back surgeries we were just a few seconds off from averaging 20-minute miles. It may not sound like much to the athletes among you, but for mere mortals like me sustaining a 3 mile-per-hour pace over multiple miles is really good. Now I am back to managing only three-quarters of a mile in 22 minutes. I have a loooong way to go. Even the dog is starting to look back over her shoulder at me, wondering why I am taking so long to get anywhere.

I originally had grand visions of heading straight back into the gym in 3 weeks, right after my 1-month post-op appointment clears me for resistance exercise. Considering how my arms and shoulders feel today, from the mere effort of moving them back and forth as I walk around the neighborhood, I may have to reconsider that notion. My sagging pecs, drooping triceps and shrinking quads are making me think that I might go in to set my max reps on the first day and fail to move a single weight. After leaving the gym in shame, I will be reduced to lying on the living room floor and bench pressing handfuls of lint I find under the couch.

But, on a positive note, I have not yet given into temptation and eaten the dog. So there's that, I suppose.

Six Days 'Til Scrambled Eggs,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Are We There Yet?

Image courtesy of NPR.

Now that the chaos and madness of the closing have passed, and Lor and I are officially home owners, we can return to the subject that really matters to me currently: food.

Specifically, the lack of it.

I am 8 days out from my vertical sleeve procedure, and I must admit that the "no chewing" thing is really getting old. I have been fortunate enough that I have not fallen into hating protein shakes, like many other bariatric patients do, but getting 100% of my nutrition in liquid form is really starting to wear on me. You know things are bad when you are feeding the dog and are speculating about the taste and consistency of her hard dog food.

See, that's the thing - I am not really hungry, per se. I am not craving food so much as I am craving texture. I want so badly to actually chew something, not just drink it. If I was given a handful of cucumber slices or almonds to chomp on currently I would think I had died and gone to heaven.

Following which I would probably end up in the Emergency Room of the closest hospital, of course. 8 days isn't enough time for your internal staple line to have healed up. I am not saying there isn't a reason for the "liquids-only" restriction. I am just saying that it is slowly driving me crazy.

I have started leaving the room whenever Lor eats her meals during the day - not because it bothers me to see her eat, but because the way I am staring intently at everything she puts in her mouth is making her uncomfortable. She is designing beautiful small meals filled with deli meats, cheeses, and fresh vegetables, and I am sitting there working on my 26th Muscle Milk shake in a row. (Believe me, I counted.) She cooked half a pound of bacon the other day and the smell filled the entire house. I almost ate a pillow to keep from crying in frustration.

But the real injustice of it all is this - Lor got to have her 2-week post-op appointment (the one where you "graduate" from shakes to soft foods) exactly 14 days after her surgery. Due to scheduling issues, mine will not be next Monday, as it should have been, but will instead be next Wednesday - 16 days after my surgery! I will be forced to spend 2 extra days sucking down protein shakes instead of moving on to semi-solid foods like scrambled eggs, refried beans, and Ricotta cheese. 

The injustice of it all is unbearable.

For those of you shaking your heads at me in amusement, go eat nothing but protein shakes for 22 days in a row. Then we'll talk.

If I See One More Sugar-Free Popsicle I May Scream,

- Hawkwind

Monday, August 1, 2016

Movin' On Up

"When the world places a box around your life, nothing is stopping you from seeing how far out you can push those walls."
- Tracy Schofield

You may have noticed that life never sends us stressful events in a nicely spaced stream, but instead delivers them in tightly wrapped clumps in close proximity to each other. So it should not be surprising to anyone that, exactly a week after my surgery, we are closing on the purchase of our home today.

It is not exactly a new house -  in fact, it was built in 1959.

We are not having to move into the house - we've been renting it for 4 years now.

It is not a big house - it  is actually smaller than some apartments I have lived in, coming in at 1,100 square feet.

Nonetheless, in about 6 hours, it will be our house.  Which is yet another surprising turn of events in what has been a year full of them.

It is a problem that many people never give a moment's thought to, but the truth is this: disabled people don't get to buy homes. Anyone living on federal disability makes so little in a given month that no mortgage lender will touch them with a ten-foot pole. The "standard" mortgage wants your payment, taxes, and interest to total up to an amount less than or equal to 35% of your monthly income. In our case that would work out to...(pulling out calculator)...$490 a month.

Even in the current era of low interest rates, I don't know too many people who have a house payment this low. And, of course, the lowest of interest rates are reserved for those with the best credit. And if there is one thing that the years of waiting for federal disability to come through does, it is this - it wrecks credit scores. I am 8 years out from finally being approved (after 4 years of waiting, mind you), and my credit score has still not recovered.

So, like 99% of all disabled folks in this country, I rent. (Paying 67% of my total income on rent, mind you.) The only way I could have ever expected to be a homeowner again would be to inherit a home, which is frankly too depressing to contemplate - I want my parents and my in-laws to live forever.

However, fate, consistent rent payments, and unusually generous landlords who are willing to become a lending institution has suddenly placed us in the position to purchase our own home, for the first time since 2001.

Buying a home has always been one of those "landmarks" in life - you grow up, you graduate, you get married, you buy a house. In 2004, with the arrival of my epilepsy, I was suddenly shunted all the way back down the ladder in one precarious stumble -  at 33 I was a home owner, then at 34 I was suddenly living in my parent's home and having my diapers changed again. (Literally.) Just getting back to living outside my parent's home with a wife who inexplicably loves me was, frankly, further than I thought I would ever get in life after I became disabled.

Yet, today, I am re-achieving another one of those "milestones". 

If you had told me in August of 2015 that today I would be a writer, down to 245 pounds, and on my way to close on a house in a few hours, I would have asked for some of whatever you were smoking.

My nerves are so shot right now, I could use some of whatever it was you were smoking.

On My Way To The Land Of Home-Ownership,

- Hawkwind