Saturday, December 12, 2009

Very Quick....

I swear I will tell this story better later, but I've had about 3 hours of sleep in the last 36.

Michael finally got home from hospital/rehab about 4 weeks ago, and was great. Weak, not exactly running miles, but great. And then about 10 days ago, he started getting weaker again, and terribly confused, and long story short, he's back in the hospital as of last night/this morning. He is ok, but they really don't know what's wrong with him. Not cardiac probably. Maybe related to the lymphoma. Maybe related to everything else. I finally got him into a room at 7:30 this morning and came home to sleep.

I am anxious and so sick of this never really knowing what the hell is going on. I'm hoping that maybe this time we;ll get some answers. And he was scheduled for his PET scan this Friday, and then they were going to start chemo, so I'm also scared that they may not be able to do that.

I will tell the story later, hopefully. I will really, really try to update more regularly (and thank you, lovely anonymous person, for asking. It means a lot to me that you care.).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Long-Overdue Update

I'm so, so sorry that I haven't updated in ages. I've just been so beyond exhausted that I haven't been able to put it together to tell the story.

Seven weeks ago today, Michael got up and was so weak that he couldn't stand. He basically slipped off a chair and onto the floor, and couldn't get up, wasn't making any sense, etc. I called the ambulance and took him to the hospital. When he was first admitted, they seemed to think that it was just a medication adjustment, not probably a big deal though not good.

Two days later, they told me that his heart was working so poorly that his other organs were shutting down, and that there was a 50% chance that he would die, and that if he didn't die, it was probably still only a matter of time, even if they pulled him through this one. And they took him to ICU, and I was terrified.

And then, two days later, everything started improving. His kidneys started working again, they did another echocardiogram and his heart was working as well as it had been a year ago, and everyone perked up and stopped talking about him dying. But he was terribly weak and completely delirious for weeks. After two weeks, he started really getting better... they moved him out of ICU and to the cardiac ward... and he was there for another two weeks.

A lot of other stuff happened in the middle, but there are two important things... the most important is that when they were trying to figure out what was wrong in the ICU, they did a lot of body scanning, and they found some unexplained masses in his lower abdomen. After a biopsy and much waiting and testing, it turns out that he has lymphoma. T-cell-rich large B-cell lymphoma, to be precise. This is treatable but scary. And he will be starting chemotherapy relatively soon, and I am... well, happy that they found this, because if the other things hadn't happened, I don't think that they ever would have caught it, not until it really was too late, because no one was looking. But scared. I have been through too much chemo and cancer and death with people I loved over the last seven years.

The other thing is that he has been in bed for the last seven weeks, and so he is terribly deconditioned. They finally released him to rehab two days ago, so he can relearn to walk. So he can get strong enough to do the chemo.

It's been a long, long haul. I hope we're on the downhill part, now, but it's still going to be a long road.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Whatever Is Prayer for You...

Michael is back in the hospital, and they are moving him to ICU this morning. His heart is not doing well, and as a result, nothing else is doing well. I can't tell exactly how serious this is, but it is not good.

We would appreciate all the positive thought and prayer that you can send.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And So On....

Every day lately has just been a matter of wondering what bad things might come along next.

Michael's heart rate is good (and his weight is great; he's 371.6 this morning), but he feels terrible, he's exhausted all the time, he's dizzy, and worst of all for me, he's really confused most of the time. He's been doing things like talking to the remote control instead of the phone and trying to eat his tea (the drink, not the meal) with a fork. I find this a little scary. Everyone seems to think that it's all about low heart function (and his blood pressure is low, too) but this is not exactly comforting to me.

Last night... or this morning, more accurately... he got up, and then I don't know what happened. He fell, fortunately not hurting himself, but we couldn't get him up and had to call the paramedics.

The cardiologist swears that he will feel better next week. We'll see, I guess.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Awfulness, Part II

My cat died this morning. And it was an accident, and I probably could have prevented it, one way or another, and I am heartbroken.

This morning, early, I heard barking in my backyard, and cat noises, too, but I was so exhausted that I didn't go check it out. I didn't even think that much about it, because (1) there's a dog that barks a lot a couple of yards over, and (2) there's a cat that likes to come by and scrap with my cats fairly often.

A couple of hours later, I woke up and found an actual dog barking and growling in my yard. I was a little scared to get close, so I called the police guy. When he came, he chased the dog farther back in the yard and found the dog... and another dog in my pool... and my beloved Crispin, dead, in the pool.

The gate to the yard was open last night... I didn't think twice about it because there are (before now) no stray dogs in the neighborhood, no small children, it's hard to get to the pool, and my own dog was away with my son, so I wasn't worried about him getting out. The cats never stray beyond the driveway, so I never worried about letting them out. But what must have happened is that the two stray dogs chased the cat and ran into the pool... the dog and poor Crispin couldn't get out.

I could have stopped this. I could have shut the gate. I could have checked out the noises when I first heard them. I could have left the big pool steps in... we took them out because they were causing problems with the liner and Michael was unable to get into the pool anyway. I could have prevented this. Yeah, I had no way of knowing. But I could have prevented it.

I loved that cat like no other. I used to think, I love you so much, something will happen to you.

Something did.

Goodbye, Crispin. I loved you the best and the most from the moment you came to me as a starving kitten. No other cat will ever be like you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Awfulness, Part I

So... when last I posted, we were in the midst of trying to figure out why Michael was getting these spells of feeling terrible, plus trying to get him well enough for the hernia/stomach surgery that was scheduled for the end of July.

Leaving out a good part of the middle bit... two weeks ago, he went in for his annual echocardiogram, and they discovered that his heart was pumping at 15% of capacity (normal, FYI, is about 60%). They immediately put him in the hospital and diagnosed congestive heart failure. And we've spent the last two weeks in the hospital... I say, "we" because I stayed with him the whole time.

The good news... I guess, if there is really any great news here... is that they put him on a whole lot of drugs, which he seems to be relatively ok with, and that the prognosis seems... well, ok I guess. He is relatively young. He's lost a lot of weight (and they said, for whatever it's worth, that if he had not, he would probably be dead by now). CHF is rarely completely reversable, but it can get a lot, lot better. And this explains a lot of the weird symptoms that he's had for so long, although no one has at all explained why it has been so cyclical. There's a lot of hope that maybe he'll really start feeling better.

The not-so-good-news... well, the condition in general. And of course, the surgery has to be postponed for some time until cardio clears him. And he's on a ton of medications which slow his heart rate (good) but lower his blood pressure (bad, because it wasn't high to begin with, and very low blood pressure makes you dizzy and confused). I don't know... it's hard to get any perspective about this right now.

I am worried and scared and overloaded and exhausted... so is he. But his weight is the lowest ever (378), and we are home, and we can rebuild.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


It's another about-the-same day here, but I'm trying to make it different. I'm trying not to get upset. Im trying not to cry. I am trying to take care of myself.

Part of the problem with this cycle of awful stuff that happens is that Michael is so miserable; he says nothing at all (and those things that he says are mostly disturbing, like "where are all the painkillers") and most of the time, he sleeps. I feel desperately isolated and alone; I lose my best friend and confidante as well as everything else. When he's well, he's everything I need... and so, when things are like this, there's nowhere to turn.

We see the doctor on Tuesday.

And in the meantime, I will do what I can. And I will try to focus a little harder on taking some kind of care of me, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I'm Back. Sort of.

I'm sorry for just vanishing... and not checking email and not updating and not responding to anything and all the other things that I should be sorry about.

It's been rough. And I get tired of posting things that say, my life right now is rough, and I am trying not to be discouraged. But it's all been stacking up, and I don't know how to make it better, and I don't know what to do to get my head above water, and I feel so desperately alone.

But you know, that makes for pretty tedious reading.

Michael is going through another spell of this mysterious crap that no one can figure out, and this time, it's hit him so hard that he can barely stand up. He sleeps all the time. Two weeks ago, we we thinking that he would be finally able to have surgery for his hernia (which is constant pain these days) and to have the skin on his stomach removed, and that's all actually scheduled for the end of July, but unless things get a lot better, I can't see it happening.

He's been having iron IVs to help with the anemia... one reason I haven't been on the computer at all; it's been so much time seeing various doctors and in transfusion centers and so on... two series so far, and whether it's doing any good or not, it certainly isn't stopping this mysterious weakness and associated symptoms.

We see the doctor on Tuesday. And I will say, it has been more than a year, and this is not better. Send us to someone who can diagnose this. Or figure out how we can go somewhere like the Mayo Clinic. This has to stop. We are exhausted and discouraged, and we cannot live like this.

It's almost a year since my mother died. She would have known how to approach this. As it is... Michael can't make decisions; he mostly can't even stay awake. And so it's me. Just me. And I will have to figure this out somehow, alone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Catching up

Yes, it's been a while....

It's been a crazy few weeks, mostly because it's the end of the semester, and everything happens at once, but also because we've been running around like mad to doctors appointments and so forth. But all the news, for a change, is pretty much good (although there's nothing really weight-related to report).

Michael finally started taking an antidepressant (Cymbalta, along with me), and miraculously, he's actually feeling a lot better. Not physically, but the scary level of depression that has been characteristic of (and increasing) for the last six months seems to be largely gone. It really does seem miraculous to me.

This week he starts iron transfusions to try to deal with the anemia (which has abruptly worsened again) and, at the end of the week, sees the bariatric/hernia guy to see if anything can be done about the increasing pain from his umbilical hernia. I am hoping that the answer is yes... and that they might want to deal with the excess skin in his stomach at the same time. That would be just such a good thing, even if he had to spend some considerable time in the hospital. But there are so many unknown things about that... we should have a better idea later in the week, I hope.

And I am trying to get refocused on actually losing weight instead of simply holding my own. I think I can do this. It makes such a difference when Michael's state of mind is better... it gives me the ability to think about something else, mainly.

There have been so many other things, too. A sad Mother's Day... the first without my mother. I swear that she made an out-of-season flower bloom for me, though.

And in news of the weird, my ex announced that he and his live-in girlfriend (it is hard to call this woman a 'girlfriend' because she looks 20 years older than him, but what other term is there?) are getting married. Not my business or my problem, but sad in a way. I'd like to see so much more for him; he's a genuinely great guy, although we couldn't make it work. But my son said, I think he's marrying the first girl he was with because he can't figure out how to do anything else, emotionally or financially. This from a 14 year old, and absolutely correct. It's just hard to see people you care about screwing up their lives by making the same mistakes over and over again, but what can you do? And he's screwing up the relationship with our son at the same time, and he doesn't see it, and the last person he could hear that from is me.

But you never know, I suppose.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Three years.

220 pounds.

Yay, Michael!

The interesting thing, for whatever it's worth... I have tons of data on all of this, because I've been keeping spreadsheets for the last few years... low calorie, food-pyramid-style, "ordinary" carb sort of regime... total loss, about 70 lbs in about a year and 3/4. Low-carb... and he doesn't eat ultra-low carb, because he eats a fair amount of fruit... year and 1/4, 150 lbs. And his blood sugar is almost normal, without medication or insulin.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The world at the moment...

I just haven't had the heart to post lately, when you get right down to it. Things have not been very happy here, to say the least. And I am not happy with my response to not being happy, which is, you guessed it, a combination of eating too much and just making myself incredibly miserable.

But it has to stop here. It has to stop now. I realized this last night when Michael went to bed, and I sat here and basically ate everything I could get my hands on in 15 minutes (hey, you can eat really low carb, and still stuff your face! Great....). And then felt sick as anything, and just... I don't know. Not so much angry at myself, but awash in that nauseating sea of familiarity, that knowledge that I've done this a thousand times, and here I am again. Everything I've done, everything I've learned, and still, you get the right combination of stress and unhappiness, and I'm right back at square one.

What can you do, though, but try again, try to do something differently, try not to lose heart?

The situation here is... well, hard to explain, I guess. On the weight side, Michael continues to lose, and with luck will actually be below 400 lbs. this week. Very exciting, very good. But he is so uncomfortable, so depressed, and in so much pain that it is almost meaningless. He has lost nearly 220 lbs. now, and he arguably feels worse than he did before he started. I don't really know why that is. That is, I understand some of the reasons, and I think most of them have to do with a combination of his hernia and the weird collection of symptoms that he gets from time to time, but I have no idea what causes this. Plus I think that his overall level of depression plus just how long this has all gone on contribute to everything.

And then there's the chair saga, which is the only remotely funny part of all of this.

When Michael first came here, I bought a lift chair for him... he was 620 lbs then, and getting up was a huge issue. There wasn't much available then... three years ago... all very expensive. I bought... oh, I've forgotten the brand now, but it was the only company that made really large lift chairs (which are mostly made for tiny grandmothers, I think). It was huge and terribly uncomfortable, and it cost about $1,500. So, after 2 years of it getting more and more uncomfortable, last summer we bought a new chair.

The new chair was a LaZBoy... normally pretty good chairs. They didn't have a floor model, so we had to order one, but the smaller one was almost ok, so we thought, fine, it's a LaZBoy, it will be great. Well, to make a long story short, it is not great. I don't know who this chair is designed for, but not really for someone with a human body, let's say. No one is comfortable in it. No combination of padding and such can make it comfortable. It is just structurally all wrong. Oh, and it cost about $1,500, too. So now we're $3,000 into the chair saga.

Fast forward to something like October. Chair is becoming intolerable. So in a flash of... well, not exactly brilliance, as it turns out... I go out and buy another chair. Beautiful leather recliner, very comfortable... or so I thought. $1200. Very comfortable for a week or two... and then it's clear that this isn't working, either, the size of the chair isn't quite right, plus it doesn't lift. Back to the horrible lift chair.

And back to being incredibly uncomfortable. He's in a lot of pain a lot of the time anyway, so this discomfort thing isn't just a matter of not the perfect chair or something; it's never being comfortable, and being tempted to just go to bed and stay there (which is the last thing I want to see). So last week, I can't stand it any more, and I go buy another chair. $900, and I sat in EVERY chair in the store, I think. (No, I couldn't get him to go pick one out.)

So this chair is wonderfully comfortable until he tries to get up from it, and then it becomes clear that he's not going to be able to actually get out of this chair, because it's too low, and it rocks, so it's tippy. So we put it up on concrete blocks to get it a little higher and keep it from rocking. Which, after about 3 tries, is maybe going to be ok. So now we're $5,100 into the chair saga, and I'm still not sure that we have a chair that is workable. If I even say the word "chair" to my son, he runs screaming because he figures he's going to be dragged into more furniture moving.

I wrote all of the above a few days ago, and then I just stalled out, kind of at a loss for where to go from there.

But since then, things have actually gotten a little better. Michael is on an antidepressant, and, miraculously, it has made a HUGE difference in just a couple of days. And when his mood brightens, the whole world seems like a different place. And he has agreed to see about hernia surgery... maybe still not possible, but just thinking about it is a step in the right direction.

So... well, no brilliant wrap-up, just restart, try again, see what happens.

Tomorrow will be our third anniversary.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday wrap

I just don't seem to be doing that well lately, not with my fitness goals, not with the rest of my life.

And there are explanations... the obvious one is just that Michael has been so continually unwell and depressed about it and generally testy and unhappy, and I can separate myself from this for a while, but eventually, it wears on me. I try very hard to separate my mood from his, and I try to stay up... but the problem is that, well, it does just wear on me, plus his withdrawal kind of sets off all the needy junk that I tend to revert to under stress, and he can't handle that, and... oh, ugh, it all turns into this vicious circle of unhappy things.

I know this, and I've gotten better at it, but it takes a lot of mental effort for me.

Sometimes, it's really hard to know how to be true to yourself while doing the best for others. And the corollary is, it's hard to know what the best thing for others really is. It's easy to guess, easy to think what you would want in the same situation. But everyone is different.

I know what would be best for me. Or at least I think I do.

I don't know what is best for Michael. I like to think that I do, but the fact of the matter is that I don't.

I spend a lot of time trying to cushion him from things, both literally and figuratively. I'm not at all sure that's the best thing to do. There's a lot on my shoulders, too, but there's no one else to carry it right now, so that's ok, and it's just the way it is.

I need to put some hard thinking into figuring out how to take care of myself better in some way that can be sustained when everything just goes to hell like this.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Monkfish with Curried Lentils and Brown Butter Cauliflower

This recipe is based on a Bon Appetit recipe that I got via Epicurious, but I modified it to (1) reduce the carb level, (2) deal with some of the blandness issues that the commenters complained about, and (3) correct the very wrong cooking times.

Monkfish with Curried Lentils and Brown Butter Cauliflower

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (use fresh nutmeg and grate it yourself)
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup French green lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • chicken or other stock as desired
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • salt to taste
  • 4 6-ounce monkfish fillets (each about 1 inch thick), skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • fresh lemon

This recipe is really three (or four) parts, and they can all be done separately. (And, yes, there are supposed to be 2 heads of cauliflower; you use them in different parts.)

1. The cauliflower purée "sauce"

Bring first 4 ingredients to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until cauliflower is very tender, about 17 minutes. Cool slightly. Transfer mixture to blender (or food processor, or just use an immersion blender); puree until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper. This can be made far ahead of time and reheated.

2. Lentils/cauliflower

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery; sauté until just soft. Add lentils, curry, paprika; and cayenne pepper; stir. Add 1 1/4 cups water and wine; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. The original recipe says that this this will take 30 minutes. I think this depends entirely on the type of lentils that you use, and the wonderful French green ones take quite a bit longer than that... more like 45 or 50 minutes. So start this way ahead of time, and don't start the cauliflower step until the lentils

Meanwhile (see note above), cook butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Add cauliflower; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water; cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp-tender and water evaporates, about 10 minutes longer (at least). Stir in lentil mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

This can be made ahead and rewarmed, too. In fact, if you were making this for something like a dinner party, you could make everything except the fish earlier and just reheat.

Finally.... sprinkle monkfish with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; sauté until just opaque in center, about 6 minutes per side. Squeeze fresh lemon onto the fish. (You could use any firm white fish).

Divide sauce among 4 plates. Spoon lentil mixture alongside. Place fish atop lentils.

The original recipe, which you can find here, had a gremoulata for the top of the fish, but I didn't have any parsley, so I skipped it, and I really don't think it's necessary.

The main carb source in this dish is the lentils. I cut them in half (relative to the original recipe), so if this recipe serves 4, it's about 15 net carbs from the lentils (and a little more from the cauliflower). Not induction-friendly, but not excessive.

The vegetable mixture in this is great without the fish, too, just as a side dish for anything. It has a nice curried kick to it. It's also really easy after you do it once; it looks complicated, but it's not.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The hard thing... taking whatever comes with grace and generosity of spirit.

The hard thing is understanding that not everything is about you.

The hard thing is allowing there to be things that are about you, some of the time, because you can't have a life without conflict. People don't work that way. People have different needs, and sometimes they crash right into each other.

The hard thing is stepping back and giving time to let things sort out. The hard thing is not trying to control the outcome of things that make you unhappy.

The hard thing is not letting things that belong to other people affect how you feel about yourself.

Today, for me, everything is a hard thing, I think. But these things do pass, if you let them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I haven't been posting much lately because I just kind of don't know what to say. Nothing much is happening. I seem to be consistently failing to keep track of what I'm eating, not because I really object but because I just... I don't know. I just haven't been doing it.

I think it's mostly because Michael has been so low lately. The hardest thing I know, on a day-to-day basis, is to stay positive and happy when the person you spend all your time with is visibly unhappy and negative. I really don't blame him; I know that things for him have been unbelievably difficult lately, but this part is hard for me. Some part of me thinks that I should be able to fix it. Some part of me thinks that I should be spending a lot of time in a pretty futile attempt to help make things better. Some part of me thinks that if he's not happy, I shouldn't get to be happy, either (yes, I know, I know...). And then I find it hard to focus on taking care of myself.

I think that both of my sisters believe that this is some unhealthy codependent thing, and it's a natural thing to think, in part because we all watched my mother in a not-so-different sort of situation. But let's just say, it's not like I'm unaware of the potential. It's not like, in a larger sense, I'm not taking care of myself. It's just that some days are a lot harder than others.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The News from Here


We ended up not calling the doctor. I knew this would happen. We go through this routine all the time... things seem bad enough in the evening to call; by morning he feels better... next evening... well, you can guess. We did decide to give this until the kind of arbitrary date of April 13 to see if it just resolved itself. Again.

He is eating about 1200 calories a day if I push protein shakes down his throat, and every day, his weight is about a pound higher. No, this is not normal. And he complains about feeling absolutely stuffed all the time. And every night, his temperature goes up to 101 or 102 for a few hours.

I am trying to just sit this one out and wait and see what happens. He is so miserable and frustrated, though, that it's hard.

And so far, on my resolve to really keep track of food every day this week... total fail. Sigh.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday again


A thank you to everyone who has been so encouraging about the calorie thing... my plan, which I've been doing in sort of a half-hearted way this week, is to keep a rough count on the applet on my iTouch (have I mentioned how much I love, love, love, love this iTouch? Useful in ways that I never imagined.). This has been going pretty well so far, to the extent that I've been doing it. It's not ideal in some ways, but the ways in which it's not ideal kind of keep me from getting as insane about it as I would be likely to do with a more sophisticated program. I used to use... well, I've tried FitDay (not crazy about it but a lot of people really like it), MyFoodDiary (best of the online programs, if you ask me, but still not fast), SparkPeople (not my cup of tea but again, great for a lot of people), and then ultimately I bought the software for DietPower, which I think is a really excellent program if you want to track every possible nutrient, and you have the ability to do this without spending all your life obsessing about it. (In other words, if you are not me. You don't even want to hear about the Great Selenium Debate of 2008.)

Anyway, this little iTouch applet is great, it was free (Lose It, for anyone curious), it's really fast, and you can easily track the three things I care about, calories, carbs, and protein. And the days that I have kept track, I have lost small amounts of weight. And the days that I have not kept track... you guessed it, I haven't. So you would think that someone with half a brain (and I'd like to count myself in for at least half...) would put this all together and actually do that. Which is my goal for this coming week.

In all fairness, the day that I really didn't track... yesterday... was kind of a Epic Fail sort of day anyway. Michael's been having another incidence of these mysterious symptoms he gets... afternoon fever, edema, extreme fatigue, nausea... and he feels like death, and he's depressed as hell. Part of the trouble is that he gets up in the morning and feels relatively ok, but in a few hours, he's awful again. Anyway, yesterday, I took him for a drive, just to get him out of the house, and it just was one of those ideas that seems good and turned out just bad bad bad bad... he was uncomfortable and miserable, I was miserable because my happy plans had not turned out that way, he was more exhausted than he would have been otherwise... and we didn't exactly eat properly, either, although "not eating properly" for us these days isn't exactly an extreme thing.

The trouble is that I seriously have no idea what the right thing to do about this problem is. We go back to the doctor time and time again; he does tests, and he doesn't find anything. I don't think that he has a clue where to go with this next, and I also don't think that he takes it that seriously... he doesn't see the extent to which Michael is incapacitated; he doesn't see what it's doing to him psychologically, either. I just don't know where to go with it. I'd like to have someone else see him... but who? My sister keeps suggesting that we go somewhere like Johns Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic for a complete workup, but I have no idea if my insurance would pay for it, and the other problem is, doctors take one look at him and they think that it's all about weight, and they want him to have surgery. Yes, he's still over 400 lbs. But he has lost over 200 lbs., and he feels worse. If he were not losing weight, we would consider surgery. But as long as he is... and he is, when this stuff is not going on... that doesn't seem to me to be the right choice at this time. I need for someone to see past the weight and try to get to the bottom of what causes this fatigue, the fevers, the edema.

So I will call the doctor on Monday, for lack of anything else to do, and I will try to get him in to see him, although I have a hideous schedule next week, and doing this will be very difficult.

We will get through all of this. I know that. It just would be nice to be able to see the road ahead a little more clearly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Calories and Carbohydrates

When you start reading about low-carb diets, you get the notion that you can eat whatever you want, as long as it's low carb, and still lose weight. I think it starts with the first weeks of Atkins (eat whatever you like as long as you keep carbs below 20) and follows along to the people who argue that there's a metabolic advantage to low carb diets, and it all builds to the idea that if you're counting carbs, you don't need to count calories.

But ultimately, I'm pretty sure that's not true, or not true for everyone at least. (One of the things I've really learned over the last few years is that everyone is a little different, and what works for one person may not work at all for someone else.)

When I started eating low carb, I lost about 20 lbs. or so pretty quickly, and then I've spent about a year plus pretty much maintaining my weight. Which is not exactly what I have in mind. I've proved again and again that if I keep the carbs low, I can eat mostly whatever I want and not gain weight. This is kind of a long-run good thing, I suppose, but it doesn't solve the problem of really wanting/needing to lose more. And, sure, there are many reasons why, for the last year, it's been easier for me to maintain weight than to lose it, but at the end of the day, it still leads to the conclusion that that I have to do something different if I want to get anywhere. The lower carbs have also been fantastic for my blood sugar and general level of energy, and so, particularly because we eat very clean anyway, in the "very little processed food" sense, I'm pretty happy with the general shape of my food choices. But clearly there's too much of it.

I was starting to get somewhere when I was making the photo food diary, but... well, I got lazy about it, and I realized that I eat a lot of the same thing a lot of the time, and that it's hard to get a sense of scale... so it was definitely a step in the right direction, but it wasn't enough. And I got kind of derailed when my son and I went to New York, too, and haven't quite started up on the pictures again, although I probably will.

But I think that when you get right down to it, I have to start counting calories again. I am not totally averse to doing this, but it's taken a while to really convince myself that I need to do this. First of all, I love the idea that I can eat pretty much whatever I want... but "whatever I want" is simply too much for me to actually lose weight, at this point in time anyway, because I have too many bad habits that are allowed free rein with this idea. I graze (moo!). I eat when I'm bored. I think I'm hungry when I'm bored. I don't have enough accountability. And so on. The other thing is that I have been very reluctant to start keeping a food diary, because it tends to make me a little obsessive and weird and controlling about food... about Michael's food, too, and this is not a recipe for marital bliss. I am just going to have to figure out how to avoid doing that. And how to not make myself crazy in the process.

I think that "not making myself crazy" is going to have to mean, keeping a rough tally on my iPod, not spending the hours that I used to obsessing over every micronutrient. I have been trial-running this for a couple of days, and thus far, I'm a little lighter and not much more insane than normal. Yet. :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And Another Sunday....

Somehow, a week has slipped by.

And what have I done this week? Kind of nothing, amazingly enough. It's spring break here, and as always, I'd had all these plans to get caught up with everything in the world, and mostly that hasn't happened at all. Discouragingly enough.

And so that's what I've been thinking about. Procrastination.

I've been reading this book lately about, basically, fixing what's wrong with your life, I guess. And the premise thus far is that we create our own problems/obstacles by the way we think about them. "The way we frame the problem" is the way I'd put it. Which I pretty much agree with. And that change is hard because we are resistant to change, because most of our difficult behaviors serve us in one way or another. Thus we have to be willing to let go of the... the reasons why we've kept the behaviors, I guess.

I have been thinking specifically about procrastination, which is probably the specific behavior that is annoying me the most these days, because it invades about every facet of my life. I procrastinate about doing work-related things, home-related things, exercise-related things, writing down food... you name it. And it's easy to focus on the behavior and say, obviously what you need to do is stop procrastinating. But I guess that my thought from reading this book, to the extent that I have, is that it's not the procrastination that's the issue, it's the underlying stuff, the ways in which not doing these things allows me to... I don't know. Maybe fail to take responsibility for my own successes or failures, because I'm always going, oh, if I'd done this, it would have turned out better. I kind of can't explain that so that it makes sense, but it does make sort of an internal sense to me. "It's not really my fault since I didn't do everything that I could have." Something like that.

I need to figure out how to get past this and, trite though it sounds, allow myself to succeed.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Some days, I sit down to write, and I think, this is the wrong stuff to put here. This blog is supposed to be about something. About weight loss or something like that. But I think... I don't know, I guess that for me, weight loss is about 10% what you actually do and 90% what you learn not to do. And at the end of the day, that's all behavioral modification, and your ability to do that is all about consistent effort... which in turn is all about the rest of your life.

It's a sunny afternoon, Michael's asleep, my son is at his father's, and I'm cleaning the kitchen. Or I'm supposed to be, anyway. I got derailed by thinking too much, as usual. And missing my mother. It's been 8 months, and I suppose that the grief has lost its immediacy. But it's like a wound that scabs over but still hurts all the time. I begin to think that there's no end to this. I can't talk about it, and I can't stop feeling it. It seems to be one of those things that is a marker, after this thing, you will never be the same. It's like having children... it's impossible to understand really what it's like to have kids until you do, and then there's no going back; your understanding of life is different forever. (Yes, I know, Circle of Life; I'm one second from humming Lion King songs.)

And I think, as I do so much these days, about where I am and what's next. About getting to some different place, where I'm not just replaying the same choices over and over again, where something actually changes. I was reading this on Escape from Obesity this morning... and, yeah, I can relate to missing the "happy" binging, to when food, a day of food, was a real source of pleasure. It's not anymore... but there's a part of me that wishes that it still was. Or, more accurately, that there was something that gave me the simple kind of pleasure that I used to be able to get by sitting down with high-carb foods and a good book and just letting the world go away. And, yes, I'm ashamed, in a way, to say that. I have different pleasures now, but it doesn't mean that I miss the old simple ones. Everything these days seems complicated and full of thought and just not easy.

Everything is ok. But some days, I just feel so profoundly tired, tired to the core, and I want to go back to a time when life seemer simpler and the choices less limited.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Not a Happy Bunny

Somehow it turned into a rough day yesterday.

The good part: we went to see New Knee Doctor yesterday, who said, there is nothing wrong with your knees that losing another 200 lbs. would not mostly cure. (Then he looked like he had very little belief that he could do that, but let's not go there...) So that is good news, or good reinforcement anyway because it's not really anything that we didn't know.

Went to the store, came home, and the day kind of spiraled down. Michael was exhausted and tense and low, and he is still not well. I am pretty convinced that this is not flu but rather a milder version of this thing that happens again and again. The good thing is that his breathing has not been so bad, but the rest of it... rapid heart rate, blood sugar that is out of whack, water weight gain (stomach edema), wanting to sleep all the time... it's all the same. Just not so bad. I am pretty sure that it will pass (and relatively soon, with luck), but it's discouraging for him to watch the scale just go up and up (he's about 10 lbs. higher) when he's eating very little. Hard to know what to do. His weight will not be lower today, I know that... and he will be discouraged all over again.

And I don''t know what happened to me. Started ok, but got tired and tense and anxious, and then all I wanted to do was eat. Which I did. I have seen so many former binge eaters say basically this... I did not binge in any realistic calorie sense, but I could feel that the motivation behind it was the same. I even made an excuse to get up after we'd gone to bed so that I could sit up for 20 minutes and eat more. It is hard to write that. And this morning I feel sick and low and very alone.

But what can you do? It's another day. It's time to dust off the pieces, try to figure out why this happened, start again.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I'm trying to find the next step.

I've worked so hard... nearly a decade... on the cognitive, behavioral things, and I think because of that, it is hard for me to believe that there really is something biochemical wrong with me that medication does help... or can sometimes, anyway. But I see the things that come back, the things that you don't realize are gone until they return... the ability to laugh more, to just be happier in the moment, to be silly and spontaneous. Michael sometimes complains that I'm not fun anymore... I think he means, not spontaneous... and, you know, he's right. I'm not fun. It's all a balancing act, me on this tightwire between ok and not ok, teetering all the time, trying to keep my ducks all in a row. I beat myself up mercilessly a lot of the time for not getting things done... but I forget, it's hard. It's hard to get up in the morning and put myself together and do the basic things. It shouldn't be. But it is.

I wish that I had the words for the feeling, that inchoate formless longing to be on the other side of this, to be that person I can feel sometimes, the person who I am without the sadness and the regrets and the anxiety and fear. I can see her, sometimes, just on the edge of my vision. Sometimes, just for a moment, I am her. And then I lose my balance again.

But the last few days, I can see the form and shape of it, see the choices that I have to make, see these things as real and possible rather than things that require unimaginable, insurmountable effort.

I think this is all good. But it's tentative and a little frightening, too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Ugh, I woke up early this morning thinking I would get all sorts of things done, but I've actually been just napping listening to the news of one sort or another and trying to really wake up. Michael is no better; he dragged himself out of bed a couple of hours later and promptly went to sleep in his chair. He's been sick with something stomachy for days; I think maybe I have a touch of it, too, and my son has a sore throat.

The trouble is that as soon as Michael gets sick, he starts gaining weight... not because he's eating too much; actually he's eating hardly anything at all. But I think it throws off his blood sugar and increases the edema in his stomach, and it's just all really discouraging. You can know perfectly well that it's not "real" weight, but the scale still says ugly things. And it sets him back weeks. He's discouraged and achy and miserable.

I am feeling... better. Tentatively better. I very tentatively, not wanting to put much belief in it, but just kind of sort of... think that this medication is making me feel better.

I have a list a mile long of things that I either need to do or want to do, and I am just sitting here.

Ok. Here is what I need to actually DO today.
Stretching/exercises *done*
Spend an hour in the studio working on glass * done happy happy*
Clean the scary bedroom *started. Very scary.*
Write Phi Beta Kappa letter
Write other letters of reference
Cook chicken wings and soup (not together!) *done*
Freeze or cook chicken breasts

Back later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday night

I feel like I ought to post something, but I have no idea what to say, really.

It's been a busy beginning of the week... it's when all my classes are, and I'm so far behind on everything. Plus Michael has something that is probably just flu (but every time he feels unwell at all, my heart stops because I'm afraid of another recurrence of these breathing issues and mysterious weight gain, still unsolved).

But mostly, I just can't put any thoughts together that make something like a coherent post.

How do I feel? Not so nauseated and drugged as I felt for the first few days. Ok, I guess. Better than without it? Just too soon to say. Maybe. Just maybe. But the nausea and lightheadedness and fatigue make it hard to say, oh, yeah, this is a good thing. On one hand, I feel like springing out of my chair and getting a lot of things done, and on the other... well, I'm pretty lethargic.

I am trying to get it back together to start posting food again, but on top of everything else, with Michael sick, I'm mostly eating leftovers. Tonight was Carnivore Night... everything in the refrigerator was meat of a sort, leftover roast beef and salmon and chicken. There are never any vegetable leftovers. Yes, I could have made a salad... which actually sounds great at the moment. No, I couldn't be bothered.

Mostly, I'm just musing. On where to go from here. On what it all means. On who I want to be. Some days, I feel like everything is falling into place at long last. Others, just no clue.

Someone I loved a long time ago used to say, "I have no idea what I will do next. Watch this space." Not a particularly novel way of putting it, I suppose... but I always associate that with him (that, and England in the spring, and jester hats, and cheap red wine, and airplanes, and unbearable sadness and loss). I feel like that, though. Watch this space. Something will happen next.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Good morning. Welcome to Daylight Savings Time... or is it the other way around? I can never remember if this is when it starts or it ends, particularly as it never makes any sense to me anyway.

I think that this is Day 3 of Cymbalta. And mostly I feel weird. It's been a decade since I've taken antidepressants, and so I've forgotten this initial side effect stage. It all feels vaguely familiar, but not in a good way. Intermittent nausea is the worst part. Underneath it, I feel... sort of weird, sort of ok. Sort of just weirded out. I think that a decade ago I was considerably more willing to experiment with the biochemistry of my head. Now... I just don't know. On the one hand, however I feel without the medication is me... I guess. On the other... well, when I started taking Prozac more than a decade again, I felt briefly and wonderfully free of the general irritation and annoyance with life that had plagued me forever. And it didn't last, but I knew that I could feel that way, and so I had something to work at, and slowly I learned how to feel that way on my own, most of the time.

My sister would say that depression and anxiety are diseases, and you wouldn't choose not to treat something like diabetes, would you? (I tried to point out that I live with a diabetic who pretty much does refuse to treat it with medication, but she really didn't think that amusing or appropriate. She totally lacks a sense of humor about this.) I say, sure, it's not like I don't buy into that, but a nice comforting broken leg would have visible symptoms, a clear progression, a point where it was fixed. It wouldn't be this roulette wheel of trying to find a medication that works, of separating the biochemical from the behavioral, of side effects so on.

Anyway, I haven't been keeping a food diary because I haven't really been eating much, so I can't seem to work up an interest. This is not that great really, because I know perfectly well that I can eat a lot without thinking that I am. Still, I'm just about back to my pre-NYC weight, so that's good. And I'm playing racquetball today, if my hip will let me and if my friend remembered to reset his clock. This should be really interesting; in addition to the nausea, I'm dizzy as hell. But I really want to play. Need to move around. Last time around with this kind of thing, I used to put on headphones and go running in the dark... and those of you who know just how much I hate running will understand how really weird that was.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ok. Let's Give It a Try...

Thanks, everyone. Your support means a great deal to me.

I'm giving it a try. With HUGE reservations, I have to say. (Come on, make a decision and stick to it rather than second-guessing yourself, ok?) I started last night. I feel awful today. But that's the price, waiting out the side effects. The only good thing about this is that I think that food is not going to be an issue in the short run.


I usually tolerate medication pretty well at least for a while. I need to remember that. I need to not focus on the fact that I feel mega-weird. And I need to get back to my food/semi-workout routine, now. And see where I'm at in a few days.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Accountability. Cymbalta. Whining.

I've been doing ok at removing the excess weight that I managed to gain in NYC... mostly water, fortunately... but it is really clear to me that I am nowhere close to being able to do this on my own without some kind of accountability. So I'm back to the food diary today, although probably not photos just get because my son swiped my camera for a school project and hasn't brought it back yet!

If you were reading back in January, I'd finally decided that my level of depression had gotten so far out of hand that I was willing to try anti-depressants again, called up Psychiatrist Sis, and got her recommendation... Cymbalta... which my insurance company promptly refused to pay for. I was Not Happy (well, obviously). Since then I've been working on getting approval... or my doctor has... and this finally came through.

But this is my dilemma. I really don't feel as bad as I did in January. Not even close. For one thing, Michael is a lot better, and that increases my coping abilities hugely. Other than this persistent, horribly painful hip thing, I feel physically better. Things are... ok-ish. Most of the time.

But I have a hard time stabilizing my mood at the best of times. I still can't seem to get past the lethargy that's been characteristic of everything since my mother's death. I can't seem to get past the fact that any small thing rattles the foundations of whatever peace of mind I have. And maybe something would help with that. Plus a number of people have put some effort into making sure that I can try this.

I really don't know what to do.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Back. Food. Lessons.

Back from NYC. A great four days with my delightful son; otherwise, kind of a mixed bag. A whole lot of chaotic weirdness on the professional front, not good news for my student program although how it all works out remains to be seen. Long story.

But we had a lot of fun and ate some really good food and saw some plays and went to museums and got to spend some real time together in a way that we haven't been able to in a long time. He's such a great kid, so fun to be with, and we just get along really well, always have. It's so special to me... especially since I didn't have anything like this kind of relationship with either of my parents.

Anyway, on the food front, a couple of thoughts.

One thing is that it's surprisingly easy to eat reasonably low carb as long as you (1) skip the fast food, (2) skip the bread basket, and (3) skip the desserts. I kind of forget this because we really don't eat out much.

The second thing is that I've still got a long way to go along the cognitive behavioral road. I know, it's a few days on vacation (sort of), and no one is expecting perfection, and those of you who remind me that I'm too hard on myself will say that again. But the fact of the matter is that when I don't eat properly-- that is, when I don't eat the foods that my body is used to eat and skip the foods I don't generally eat-- I feel very bad. Physically. And bread and dessert is not worth nausea and bloating. Ex post, anyway. Ex ante often seems like a different story. Someday I will get this into my thick skull. The problem is that I do know this, but at some point I just kind of wear down, and once that happens, all the "what the hell" parts of my brain take over.

(Interesting side note: NYC now requires that chain restaurants put calories on the menu. We went to the Hard Rock Café for lunch one day, and in general, I don't pay that much attention to calories, but I have to say that having these numbers on the menu is a huge deterrent to eating. Anything, really. I recognize that it's difficult for all restaurants to do this, plus it's not that exact, but there's a lot to be said for it.)

Also, I totally racked up my hip walking a lot and going up and down a lot of stairs in the subway. So incredibly painful. I had to cancel classes yesterday because I basically didn't think I could walk across campus and stand up for an hour. No idea what this is or why it kicks off, although it really is walking and stairs that makes this worse. So maybe bursitis; regardless, it's unbearably painful plus makes it hard to sleep at night.

Now I need to get back to my routine.

And by the way... I sort of mean to write up some NYC review notes, just for the fun of it, but I wanted to put in a plug for the most fun museum thing that we did... the Frick Collection. I've been to all the big museums a million times, but I've never been there before... it is the most enchanting place, the mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, which houses the most staggering collection of (mostly) European paintings, some of which are so famous that you can't believe that you're actually standing in front of them. The Vermeers are stunning (look at the one on their home page right now, if you click the link). It's small, it's beautiful, and there aren't a ton of people there. An absolute gem.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Think Good Thoughts for Me

Quick, from NYC post... more about things actually related to this blog later... but I found out at dinner last night that the government agency that sponsors the student program with which I'm greatly involved is probably going to stop doing that. This would be a huge blow to me, but more importantly to a lot of students at a lot of colleges in this area... and I would be just heartbroken to see this happen.

Today I get to do whatever I can to save something from the wreckage... and I've spent all night trying to think how best to do this. I have no real idea. But I strongly believe in the power of positive thought and faith, so... send some good thoughts my way this morning, if you can.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I could tell you what I ate yesterday. It's boring. I forgot to take pictures, and mostly I was so irritated with myself that I didn't pay a lot of specific attention. Sigh. The day all kind of went to hell.

It all kind of went to hell in a flurry of trying to pack to go to NY tomorrow, and realizing that everything dressy that I have to wear looks terrible on me. In my opinion anyway. And certainly not like I want it to look.

I know that probably every woman (and probably man, too) has had that moment when everything in your closet is lying on the floor around you, and you realize that that you just own nothing that is what you want, and that the problem is as much you as the clothes. You have the things that you wear every day, and they don't set this off for you... they're the things that you're already comfortable in, or maybe that you just tune out because you're used to seeing them... in the same way that we don't necessarily focus on everything about what we look like every day (which actually is a Good Thing, of course. It's not like you'd really want to do that.)

But yesterday was really one of those days for me. Everything I put on either looked like a sack or was too tight, and... well, let's just say that it was all as depressing as hell.

And this is what I thought while I was totally being miserable about this. I have spent nearly three years paying incredible amounts of attention primarily to diet. I weigh... well, a little less than I did then, but not a lot. If I had just lost, say, a pound a week during this time, I would be below my goal weight. It's a little disheartening. Or it makes you think that I'm utterly delusional about what I eat and what I do, which really I'm not.

But the problem is this... and it's the heart of every problem for me, in a lot of ways. I have spent three years paying attention to Michael's weight. To what would help and support him. And, wow, in that sense, I've been incredibly successful. I've made him the focus, made choices again and again that were supportive of him, and, you know, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. But we are not the same person, and the same things do not necessarily work for us.

If I don't do something to change my ability to support him and me, I'll be sitting here two years from now, he'll be at his goal weight, and I'll be writing this again. And my back will still hurt, and I still won't have anything to wear.

Today isn't a life-change day... it's a get everything done before I go to NYC day. But after I get back, I need to spend some hard time thinking about this.

And I still have nothing that I'm happy wearing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Upcoming Pitfalls. Monday Food. General Chaos!

On Thursday, my son and I are going to New York City for a few days. I am very happy/excited about this... I used to take him every year when he was younger, but we haven't gone in a while mostly because Michael can't really do it yet, and I feel not happy about leaving him home alone. Doesn't seem fair. But I have a conference to go to, so that means that the college will pay a lot of my expenses, so it's just too good an opportunity to go. We're going to see a couple of shows, and go here for dinner one night, and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and maybe some other museums... and roam around, depending on the weather. (Last time we were there, we walked and walked and ended up somewhere I'd never seen before, and it was freezing cold, and we were starving, and we stumbled into this little Indian restaurant and they gave us tons of food and the best steaming hot chai, and, wow, it was wonderful.) And maybe see a friend of my mother's, if the fact that my total social awkwardness and failure to email her until this morning doesn't screw that up. (Sigh. How old do I have to be before I stop being shy? I'm starting to think that the answer is, "older than you will ever get.")

Anyway. For me, the really big question is, can I go to NYC for four days and still eat like a reasonable person? (Definition of a reasonable person: someone who does not see the "away from home" excuse as a reason to stuff all sorts of crap into her face.)

Last summer, after my mother died and I was flying back and forth to Baltimore all the time to help deal with her stuff, I'd eat the way I should for a few days, and then I'd get sick of saying, "sorry, I can't eat that" to my sisters all the time, and I'd just cave. Which might be kinda sorta fine if I enjoyed it at all. But the problem is that high carb food and too much food of any kind makes me feel sick... after the fact... but that pleasure sensor in my brain is just too stupid to figure that out some of the time. (Vivid memory: letting myself get way too hungry, then caving in and having Mexican food, mostly tortilla chips and sugary margaritas, and just being more sick than I've ever felt in my life.)

This time I have a little more control, in theory anyway, and I can head off the being hungry before it gets out of control, and really I have the tools to be moderate about this if I can just keep focused. This doesn't mean that I have to be perfect, but it does mean that I have to be careful and cognizant, recognize that my real weakness is letting myself get overly hungry, and remember that I choose to eat this way because it makes me feel better.

Plus I've fought really hard to start losing weight again, and I'd just as soon not gain it all back in four days.

Which means I have to not do dumb things. These dumb things include (1) the too hungry thing, (2) getting annoyed at how hard it is to eat low carb at fast food places unless you want to strip the bun off the burger and try to eat the patty without dripping grease all over yourself (ugh), (3) other stuff I will think of later.


Quiche/protein shake
Then I was at school all day and didn't eat anything... note that part above where I said that stuff about getting too hungry? Have I mentioned lately that I am an idiot?
Came home starving and nibbled on random food, violating all rules as I (1) didn't take a picture, (2) didn't pay attention, (3) didn't even sit down. I had some leftover pork, and some cheese and crackers, and probably too much of all of the above.
Then we had tilapia and green beans for dinner. I had a sugar-free chocolate. I had some more cheese. Why, you ask? See above. I am an idiot.

Just to relieve the dullness of all of this, I am throwing in a picture of Mint Julep, my stuffed sheep, who will probably be coming along to NY. It's a long story. And note the cool traveling hat that Michael's friend made for him!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Glass. More is... More. And Sunday Food.

Wow. Glass makes me happy. I forget that.

I think that everyone's got a thing or two that just keys right into their core, and glass is that for me. Glass and enamel, vitreous things. If I had my life to do over again, I would have apprenticed as a glassblower, I think, or gone to art school somewhere that I could have studied glass working.

It's funny... my mother used to look at me and sigh and say, "I always thought you should have been an artist." This used to annoy the hell out of me, because I heard that as "I don't value what you actually do." Which may or may not have been correct, but still. (Total aside... I've heard people say about people who are dead... "this thing that they used to do that annoyed me; I just wish that they were still here to do that now." I do not feel that way. These sorts of things still make me angry and hurt. Yes, I should just let it go. No, I don't know how to do that yet.) But I'm terrible at the kinds of art that I was presented with at school... drawing and painting and so forth; I have minimal talent for them and no drive to succeed. But this... turning molten glass into solid light... this I could have spent a lifetime doing.

Anyway, another thing that I tend to forget is that when I do more, I feel like doing more, if that makes any sense.

I spend a lot of time screwing around and doing nothing, and then being discouraged that nothing is done (surprise!). I've been thinking a lot about the choices I make about what to do with my time, and I mostly think I could just be spending it better. Today I did a lot of things... made some beads, played racquetball, made food for the week (some of it, anyway), finished Michael's green card paperwork, and so on. And I feel a whole lot better than when I sit here and play games and end up with nothing to show for the day.

Better use of time.

Food. Boring.

Breakfast: quiche/protein shake
Then I went and played racquetball. Came back and had a chicken wing segment and a very small slice of cheese and the 3 ounces or so of leftover seafood salad.
Made soup for the week... more broccoli/sausage (my son: "Mom, can we just have a giant soup dispenser so there will always be soup?" Awwww.) But didn't really eat any.
Then we had curry for dinner, with the leftover pork from yesterday, but all of this looked so boringly like things I've made before that I didn't bother to take pictures.
And I had a sugar-free chocolate.

I feel a lot better about what I ate today, so maybe I'll end up ok for the week.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Everything Wants to Be Round. And Saturday food.

I was reading MizFit's blog yesterday and thinking about vision and gratitude boards and so forth, and about the amount of time I spend these days in activities that do not get me closer to any positive goal.

And so I decided to just do something that I've been putting off until the stars align properly and all the right things fall into place... setting up my glass working equipment again.

It's been years, literally, since I've done this... working with glass is the one thing that I've wanted to do practically forever, and about 6 or 7 years ago, I started taking beadmaking classes in Rochester and in Corning, and I finally set up a small studio at home. And I was just starting to feel like I was getting somewhere with this, when just about everything in my life changed, and I moved, and it took a long tiime to get things set up again. When I did, it was winter... and I work in the garage, and although the torch itself is over 2000 degrees, in winter here, it was just too cold. So Michael did the sweetest thing ever two years ago and as a Christmas present, hired someone to partition the garage and insulate it, so I could work in the winter. But the guy who was doing it, the son of a friend, turned out to be... well, "less than competent" would be putting it kindly. This was supposed to take a few weeks, and he finished at the end of last July. By that time... well, that was right after my mother died, and about when all the rounds of Michael being really sick started, and it's seemed like about the last thing that I should be doing. And too much effort to dig everything out and get going, and time that I couldn't afford to give.

So yesterday, I made a vision wall, instead. I tacked up all the pictures I had of glass by Kristina Logan, my personal inspiration, hooked everything up, and made a few beads. Wow, it's been a long time. I have forgotten everything. But it will come back.

Working with glass is a very meditative kind of activity for me. You have to be patient, not something that I do well. Lots of stuff goes through your head. Yesterday, what was going through my head was what one of my teachers said... "everything wants to be round." What she meant was, hot glass will always try to be round, so you have to remember as you're trying to shape it.

But to me, that means something else... it is easiest to be what you are naturally.

It's an extension of something I was thinking about earlier in the week, regarding exercise and food... it's a lot easier to try to follow an eating plan that suits the way you like to eat. Exercise for me got a lot easier when I got over the idea that I had to run, like all my friends, because this is not something that is natural for me. And when you get right down to it, most of the things that cause me pain in my life have to do with trying to be something that I am not, but that I have some notion that I "should" be.

Everything wants to be round. Use what you are naturally to make yourself better.


I am not paying as careful attention as I should.

Quiche/protein shake breakfast.

Then I went off to give a makeup exam, and ran by the grocery store to pick up prescriptions. I brought h
ome some seafood salad for lunch, discovered that Michael had already eaten, and so just tossed a little seafood salad and a couple of chicken wing segments on a plate, and couldn't be bothered to take a picture. Also couldn't be bothered to have the green salad that I'd planned. Yes, I know... I will fuss around if I'm making food for other people, and I won't bother to feed myself properly. Not a Good Thing.

Around 5, we had 2 crackers with a little smoked salmon and some cheese that I'd bought earlier, plus 2 thin round of something billed as "Chianti Wine Salami." Good, not great.

And then dinner was pork shoulder, cauliflower purée, and broccoli with a little Parmesan cheese. The red stuff is a cranberry-walnut sauce, not low carb but there's only about 2 teaspoons of it.

But I nibbled on bits of pork as I was carving, and I ate a few of those little hamburgers I made a couple of days ago (and fed the rest to the dog), and I think I had a chocolate, and I sort of feel like I'm getting back to that not paying attention kind of eating. It's mostly, I think, because I've been sick and so haven't really been exercising, and that tends to make everything else kind of fall apart. This needs to be nipped in the bud now.

And today's bonus picture... a very bad picture of six not-very interesting or symmetrical beads. It's a start.

All About Us ; A Recap

I've been meaning to write a general post that I can link to my profile that tells our story. Some of it, anyway.

We've both found with weight issues all our lives. Ten years ago, I was at my highest weight, around 340, and I lost nearly 120 lbs. then, mostly by spending all my time exercising myself into a stupor so that I could avoid thinking about my disintegrating first marriage. I slowly gained a lot of it back, although fortunately not all of it, and I retained a lot of the good exercise habits that I'd acquired then.

When Michael and I got married in April of 2006, he weighed about 620 lbs., and I weighed 290 lbs.

We immediately started the "perfect" low fat, food pyramid-based diet. We ate about 1500-1800 calories a day, and I wrote down every single thing in a food diary. We ate about 20% fat, tons of fruits and vegetables, whole grains... obsessively and exactly what we were supposed to eat. What we had always been told to eat. And we did this until about the end of 2007.

During this time, Michael got down to about 530, and his weight then bounced up and down and up and down, totally stalling out. I lost 10 lbs, gained 10 lbs, lost 10 lbs... and so on. And all the fat went back and forth into my stomach, which is usually not where I gain weight (let's not discuss my thighs, ok?). Plus I was absolutely exhausted all the time, and we were getting absolutely nowhere.

By the end of 2007, Michael weighed 533 lbs., and I weighed 302. It had been nearly a decade since my weight had been that high, and yet I was eating "better" than I ever had before. And I felt awful.

A friend recommended Gary Taubes' book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, and I started thinking about low carb diets. Then I started reading everything that I could get my hands on about low carb diets, most specifically the Protein Power books by the Drs. Eades. And we started eating low carb. This was an extremely hard sell around here... I'd read enough that I understood the science behind the idea, but it's hard to go from a "fat is bad" lifetime to a "fat is ok" way of thinking. It's taken more than a year for Michael to really buy into it, I think, even though his weight loss has been extraordinary.

But it's been a great thing. First of all, I stopped feeling terrible all the time. I had energy again. I lost about 20 lbs. quickly. And then, I have to say that until recently, the actual weight has been a struggle for me, even though I've eaten consistently low carb. More about that in below. But now I seem to actually be losing weight again.

Michael is the huge success story. By the end of 2008, he'd lost over 100 lbs. At this writing (end of February 2009), he's lost about another 20 more, for a total loss (since 2006) of over 200 lbs. His blood sugar improves all the time (he's a Type 2 diabetic), and his cholesterol and particularly triglyceride readings have improved remarkably.

What do you eat?

A lot of protein. Eggs for breakfast, usually, whey protein shakes, meat, poultry, and a lot of fish (because we love it).

Vegetables. Salad stuff, lower-carb vegetables mostly. But really, we don't worry about the carbs in vegetables a lot. And because Michael is a good English boy and can't live without his peas, we have peas (a legume really) in very limited quantity. We sometimes have very limited amounts of other legumes, like lentils and chickpeas.

Fruit: Not so much. We have fresh berries for dessert a couple of nights a week (and I'm still looking for a good alternative that uses frozen berries, because the fresh ones are so expensive. But we are annoyingly picky.) Michael eats apples, although he's cut those down a lot. We eat watermelon in the summer, and cherries because we love them, but that's about it. We never eat tropical fruit, because it's just so high in sugar.

What don't you eat?

Sugar. Bread. Rice. Potatoes (tiny bits very rarely). Sweet potatoes. Most processed foods; I try to cook nearly everything from scratch, except for things like Jell-O and protein bars, which I don't eat but Michael likes. Tropical fruits. Most sweet things. We go light on milk, which is mostly lactose, so adds up the carbs fast.

How many carbs do you eat in a day?

I don't know. I mostly don't count, because I've found that doing this makes me a little obsessive and weird. But I check every so often, and I try to shoot for 30-40, and I'm happier if I'm below that. Michael eats a little more, but even on a really "bad" day, he's probably around 80.

So why haven't you lost more weight?

Because, really, until recently I haven't paid a lot of attention to it. 2008 was all about my mother's terminal illness. And so while I ate low-carb faithfully and consistently, I didn't really pay that much attention to I ate. And it is a myth that you can eat any volume of food that you want on a low-carb diet. But I didn't gain any weight, either, and for me, that's a huge victory. It's the only major life crisis that I've ever been through that didnt result in another 25 lbs. Sometimes not gaining is losing, if that makes any sense.

But the strange thing is, I look like I've lost far more weight than I have. One of the benefits of a low carb diet is that your body tends to reshape. You lose weight around your stomach, one of the signs of insulin resistance, and you just look better. So, sure, I'd be happier if I'd lost more. But I will. So that's ok.

Do you think that everyone should eat this way?

I don't think that everyone should do anything. Except maybe breathe. I think that we are all different; we have different tastes and preferences, different bodies, different genetic predispositions, different behavioral issues. I think that losing weight and maintaining weight loss and fitness are very individual things, and there is absolutely no one formula that works for everyone. The most important thing is to find a formula that fits well for you and that you can maintain for the rest of your life. This one is pretty easy for me, because I like protein foods, and I cook all the time, and I have a strong, strong motivation to maintain it. I also think that it's hard to lose a lot of weight on a low fat diet (although certainly, people do it) because hunger is much more of a issue.

But I suppose that I do think that everyone would be better off with a lower carb diet than is typical in America today. The processed white stuff does nothing good for your body, and a lot of things that purport to be whole grains are not really much better than the processed equivalent. I think we'd all do better cooking more for ourselves, eating out less, eating less prepared food, and eating more locally-grown fresh stuff. (This is hard to do in upstate NY in the winter.)

What is the hardest thing about eating low carb?

For me, two things. One is that it's annoyingly hard to eat out at fast food places. Yes, you can have burgers without buns, but it's messy and fussy. It's hard to find something to just grab at the grocery store, although this is getting easier. There's also almost nothing at a convenience store that you can eat, unless you want nuts and cheese... and that gets a little high-calorie pretty fast. (It's actually pretty easy to eat out at most sit-down restaurants, though... just tell them to skip the potatoes and give you double the vegetables.)

The other is living low carb in a high carb world. People aren't well informed about a healthy low-carb diet (example: one of my students said, "My roommate went on Atkins. She ate nothing but peanut butter." Huh?), and constantly tell you that you're insane. This is tiresome. Package labeling often doesn't tell you what you want to know. Everything comes with bread.

These things actually get easier with time and practice.

What's the best thing about eating low carb?

Not being hungry all the time. More energy. Less stomach. Not fussing at Michael about what he's eating or not eating. Not feeling guilty about eating things that I love, like cheese. Being able to cook wonderful food. Eating in a way that makes moderation and portion control a lot easier for me.

What else would you like to know?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Green Card Madness. And Friday Food.

We almost have all the green card stuff together, except for things that need copying or updating and one more thing that needs to come in the mail. I am pretty sure that this is all a formality... but I really think that, apart from things like serious accidents, terminal illness, and possibly nasty divorces, about the most stressful thing that you can go through is the whole immigration process. It makes you crazy like nothing else. It's kind of like labor in that everyone's got a long story about it, some of them awful and worrying, and there genuinely are a lot of things that can go wrong. Getting Michael's K-1 visa... the visa that let him come to the US to get married... took more than six months, cost a lot of money, and stressed us both out beyond belief. And this was coming from a country that they don't scrutinize hard (the UK). If you're coming from somewhere like Iraq, or if you come from a country like China where names are similar so background checks can take decades... well, magnify our stress by thousands. And then after you get married, you have to file loads more paperwork to get your conditional green card, and then 2 years later, you have to file it all again, because something could have gone wrong with your marriage, or it could have been fake to begin with... and besides, then USCIS gets to charge you another filing fee and another biometrics fee. But at least after this, you're basically DONE. Another year and he can apply for citizenship, and then no more paperwork, forever. And a lot of other things, like financial forms, get easier too, because to own asset accounts, if you're not a U.S. citizen, you have to fill out all sorts of things.

And we're both assuming that this is straightforward, but you never know, and because you don't know, it makes you a little crazy. Hopefully we can send this off on Monday. And then we just wait wait wait for about six or seven months, I think.

Food. Really boring, and no pictures.

Quiche for breakfast. Must make more tomorrow.
Leftover chicken curry for lunch.
Got home from the statistics exam ready to eat anything not nailed down, and had 3.5 oz. salmon leftover from last night.
And then we had shrimp stir fry for dinner, which looked exactly like the pic I took last week, so I was too lazy to take a picture of it.
A sugar-free chocolate.
And somewhere along the line, I had a couple of the tiny hamburgers I made the other day.

Tomorrow... if I have time... I need to do my big cooking for the week. Make soup and Jell-O and chicken wings and quiche. Which is going to be a little hard to fit in since I have to give makeup exams and maybe play racquetball if I am not coughing my lungs out. The sore throat is gone, I think, so I'm hopeful.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Eek. And Thursday food.

I have just realized that all the paperwork for Michael's permanent green card has to be in next week. I was thinking that we had a couple of weeks yet. This is a HUGE big deal, and we've kind of dropped the ball on it with everything else going on.


Quiche for breakfast. Then we spent all morning doing hardly anything and talking about how much we
really didn't want to go to Rochester. We finally decided that smart people would have lunch before they went anywhere, so I had this salad with four chicken wing segments.

It was absolutely frigid in Rochester... maybe 27, but -800 with the wind chill. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt like it. By 4 pm we were hungry again, and I was grocery shopping, and so we had
some of these smoked salmon pinwheels, which I have to say turn out to be a good calorie/carb deal if not a great price deal. Half of the package (of 12) is about 130 calories and almost no carbs, and they're yummy. The really great thing about this, in my mind, is that Michael was happy to have something low carb and snacky, rather than something like a sandwich. This way of eating... and the recognition that his blood sugar levels matter, too... have been a very hard sell over the last year, but all of a sudden, he's tuning in to this, and it helps me, too. (We skipped the unnecessary latté that we usually get because he said, we really don't need the carbs. You have no idea what a huge thing this really is.)

Got home and sata around playing with my new toy and arguing (cordially) about why there aren't any good bands any more. Next thing I know, it's nearly 7 pm, and I'm starving and absolutely chilled to the bone freezing cold. Sometimes things remind you sharply that a calorie is a unit of heat. I had a 1.5 ounce hambur
ger that I'd cooked earlier, and then made dinner.

This is salmon with a maple chipotle mustard glaze, beans, and baby spinach wilted with garlic
and a touch of sour cream, and I have to say that it was fantastic.

I had a sugar-free chocolate, but the idea is that I'm not having anything else tonight, so I'm posting this now.

And here's how hard it was to type this morning, with a needy cat who refused to separate himself from my arm....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Food Catch-up

Ok, I have gotten seriously behind on posting the photo food diary because I have been spending every waking hour playing Jewelquest on the iTouch very, very busy with work.

So I am going to do a quick catch-up here; I realize that it doesn't matter that much, but this accountability thing for me is huge at the moment.

Tuesday: quiche as usual, and then I had a lovely salad for lunch with some of the leftover tilapia from Monday night, and we had chicken curry for dinner, which I have to say was about the best curry I've made in ages. Unfortunately, I realize that I totally can't remember anything else that I ate all day, which just makes me realize how important it is for me to do this right away every day instead of screwing around.

Wednesday we had to get up way earlier than we usually do, doctor's appointments in Rochester for both of us. So we grabbed quiche and tea and had a small latté later at Starbucks, and I had a summer roll for lunch (picture a week or so ago). I wish I knew the nutritional information on those (although it would undoubtedly be better if I skipped the sweet chili sauce). I'm guessing that they're better than the little sushi rolls, my alternate quick grocery store food, but I don't really know that for sure. Anyway, we ran way late, so I only got half of what I needed to do done, and we are probably off back there today. We had skate and cauliflower for dinner, but I think that all in all, I probably did more nibbling on the side than I was really paying attention to. My weight is up half a pound today, which is probably more likely water retention than anything else, but I really feel like I need to be focused focused focused on this at the moment, so I am taking it seriously.

And getting back to doing this every day.

I just wish I'd get really well again; I'm still coughing my lungs out half the time. Doctor says this is nothing and it will go away, but I would like to know WHEN.


As of today, Michael has lost just slightly more than 200 lbs.

Which is amazing enough that I can't think of anything else to say about it right now.