CHF Recovery: Day 25

I was busy on October 8 so here’s the stuff from that day. It was time to leave New York so I was focused on wrap-up activities.

  • Got up, had protein shake, took meds
  • Had shower and got dressed
  • Met Kathryn at the same cafe as the day before to have breakfast

Breakfast was good (I tried blintzes for the first time) but also sad, since it was the absolute end of our time together. The restaurant was busy and various emotions were happening and it was hard. But it was good, too.

  • Walked Kathryn back to her apartment
  • Took my bowls over to UPS to have them shipped home
  • Strolled as slowly as I have ever strolled in my life back to the Airbnb, stopping to get myself a chai tea latte at Starbucks
  • Drank my chai and messed around online and wrote some stuff
  • Packed my things
  • Got a cab to LaGuardia
  • Checked my bag and got through security in like two seconds (it was so dead!)
  • Got a sandwich and a yogurt and piddled around at my gate until time to board

LaGuardia felt really small compared to Atlanta, but I was at a specific terminal, and it seems like every terminal has its own baggage check/claim and security area and food court, making them pretty self-contained. I guess there were several more terminals that were the same way, each with their own gates, so the impression was deceptive.

There were high tops all over the place with tablet computers at each seat that allowed you to order food, play games, check the status of your flight, charge your device, and more. Really cool. If I had known I could just order food right there I might have done that instead of searching through the food court. What I ended up doing was going back out to the entrance (like I said, the terminal is really small) and finding the sandwich and yogurt (and some peanut butter M&Ms), then taking forever to realize that I had to walk down toward the gates to check out. I had looked at the restaurants, but one of them was very fancy and expensive (the seafood dish was $75!), one of them didn’t have anything I could eat, and I couldn’t tell how much the stuff was at the third. The food court had stuff like deli sandwiches, pizza, and burgers, none of which would have really worked for me.

I was in Zone 3 so I sat around when boarding started, and right at the last minute I went to the bathroom, and then suddenly they were making an announcement like “All passengers going to Atlanta come to Gate 10 now!” I went back out there and there was still a line to board, but it was short. Perfect timing, I suppose.

I was seated way in the back, and all the overhead bins were looking full, so I slipped into my window seat carrying both my laptop bag and my camera bag and hoped for the best. Miraculously, both of them fit under the seat in front of me, and that meant I was able to use my little laptop to do some writing during the flight! I also had my traditional hot tea and Biscoff cookies, and ate my peanut butter M&Ms, and took pictures out the window, and set the TV on the back of the chair in front of me to Japanese mode for fun. All in all, it was a good flight. Takeoff was kind of rough; there was a bunch of turbulence before we got to cruising altitude. And then landing was also rough! But the flight itself was smooth.

My plane arrived in Atlanta at around 9pm and it took about half an hour to take the Plane Train to baggage claim. Right on time. I met up with Sean and hugged him a lot. Then we went home.

  • Unpacked all my stuff
  • Left the computer to set up the next day, but set up my little laptop on the bed and messed around online a bit before finally going to sleep

CHF Recovery: Days 23 and 24

Whoops, I forgot to log anything yesterday. I was busy!

October 6

  • Got up, had protein shake and meds
  • Met Kathryn for breakfast at Gracie Mews Diner on the recommendation of my Airbnb host; it was lovely
  • Took a solo jaunt up to the Cloisters, first by taking the bus to Broadway and 86th and then hopping on the A train up to 190th Street

This trip involved taking the bus! I finally successfully rode a bus.

  • Wandered around the garden and park for hours
  • Actually got to the Cloisters itself; it was closed but I took photos of the outside
  • Walked back to the front of the park

This doesn’t look like much but it was so much walking! The garden—which is called Heather Garden, by the way—was utterly gorgeous, and I took about a bazillion photos. The rest of the park is huge, with trails everywhere, and there are some really steep inclines and a lot of stairs. The park is the site of a former fort, Fort Tryon, and you can wander around overlooks made of stone, and it’s beautiful. The Cloisters building itself is also lovely.

  • Ate dinner at New Leaf, a restaurant on the park grounds

Dinner was great; I asked them to make it without salt and they did! It was half a chicken, roasted, with carrot and asparagus couscous. For dessert I had three scoops of ice cream: chocolate, lemon, and basil. So good. At the end I thankfully remembered to take my meds. The sun had long since set by the time I finished eating, and it had gotten fairly chilly; I was happy to get back down to the climate-controlled subway.

By the way, the subway stop in front of Fort Tryon Park is so cool! The building looks so neat, with a big wood door and metal gates and such, and you have to ride a huge elevator way down to get to the trains.

  • Rode the subway back into town, this time to 59th Street
  • Took a different bus across Central Park to stop by and say goodnight to Kathryn
  • Walked back to the Airbnb, stopping along the way for some mint Milano cookies
  • Ate cookies and drank hot tea
  • Took supplements and went to bed

October 7

  • Got up around 8am, had protein shake, took meds
  • Showered and got dressed
  • Met Kathryn at Cafe Luka; she had a burger and I had a chicken sandwich

They gave me enough chicken for three people. I cut off what I wanted to eat and put that inside the seven-grain bread with one slice of tomato and some of the massive lettuce leaf, and left the rest on my plate. We shared my fries, which were good.

  • Took the train with Kathryn down to Grand Central
  • Took photos of the main terminal area that everyone takes pictures of
  • Went to the Transit Museum Annex and saw the etiquette sign exhibit

This was so fun. In addition to New York signage, there were signs from around the world. There was also a loop of TV ads running, including a bizarre and hilarious and morbid one from Australia, Dumb Ways to Die. The gift shop had a ton of subway-themed stuff, but I didn’t find anything I really, really wanted, so we left with no purchases. (I was drawn to a collection of old subway tokens, but I’m not sure where I would put them.) Next door there was a store selling unique gifts, so we went in there and looked around too. Kathryn got herself some cute Alice in Wonderland stickers :)

While we were in the area we walked over to the UPS distribution center to pick up a package I had sent to Kathryn, only to discover that it was on the truck being delivered. Argh. Lots of walking for nothing. However, we did see a few New York City Comic Con cosplayers, at least.

We were both quite tired at this point so we went back to our respective apartments.

  • Poked around online
  • Met up with Kathryn again at our usual sushi place
  • Remembered to take my meds!
  • Walked over to a little bakery with Kathryn and had cute little cakes
  • Back to the Airbnb whee
  • Went to bed at 12:30am

CHF Recovery: Day 22

Really not feelin’ it today. (Where “it” is “anything.”)

  • Got up at 7
  • Had protein shake and morning meds
  • Sat around grumpily for hours
  • Ate the protein bistro box I bought yesterday
  • Finally got off my ass and went out; walked a few blocks to the subway stop on 77th and rode downtown

I had intended to go to Chinatown and walk around taking pictures, but when the train got to the Astor Place stop I spontaneously got out, deciding to go to Cha An again. While walking toward Cha An I realized that entire street is lined with Japanese restaurants and other businesses, including a store. I picked a sushi restaurant and went there first for some protein.

  • Had a late lunch (3:15) of delicious sushi at Sharaku
  • Went to Sunrise Mart

This place was great! You take a laboriously slow elevator to get to it, which reminded me of older department stores and such in Japan. The store is filled with groceries and beauty products and video rentals, and in the very back corner…dishes!!!! I was so excited! (My mood had already picked up quite a bit thanks to the sushi but this pushed me over the edge.) I ended up buying four rice bowls, each with a different beautiful pattern. Then it was time for Cha An!

  • Went to Cha An

I ordered the matcha and the dessert sampler, and they were both awesome. The matcha is served in a large, beautiful cup (not a traditional pottery-style cup, but a porcelain one, but it was gorgeous) with red bean and mochi confections on the side. It was the perfect balance. The menu had said the matcha was sweet, which concerned me, but it had not been sweetened; it was just the right kind of bitter.

The dessert sampler included five items: mochi with what I believe was chestnut filling, black sesame creme brulee, lemon cake with jam and whipped cream, red bean ice cream with a black sesame cracker for contrast, and two cookies, one green tea flavored and one that I think had the flavor of roasted rice. They were all amazing; I think I liked the creme brulee best, followed by the red bean ice cream and the mochi.

I forgot to take my mealtime medicine while I was at Cha An, so I stopped in at a bakery and bought a bottle of water…and a gift box of macarons, because macarons.

After taking my meds, I headed back uptown. I’d thought about continuing down to Chinatown, but I had a bag full of bowls and macarons at this point and I didn’t feel like lugging it around.

  • Rode the train to 86th
  • Walked a few blocks back to Airbnb
  • Settled in and did some reading
  • Got peckish so went up the street and bought a slice of pizza

Yes. Pizza. >_< White bread and salty and greasy and unhealthy. My sodium count must be through the roof. I don’t even know. I don’t know how much sodium was in all those desserts, either.

Today was a cheat day ;P I’ll be good again tomorrow.

(It was real New York pizza. I had never had it before. You gotta have real New York pizza in New York, man.)

  • Changed into pajamas
  • Did a bit more reading

Now all that’s left is:

  • Take evening supplements
  • Go to bed

CHF Recovery: Day 21

It is so difficult to maintain a low-sodium diet. I hate it.

Today the plan was to go to Cha An for lunch, then check out Chinatown. We did both of these things, but at first there was some confusion about whether or not I could actually eat anything at Cha An.

Cha An is a cool Japanese restaurant that focuses on tea and dessert but also has appetizers, side dishes, and a couple of meal options. I was looking at the menu before heading out to meet Kathryn and it seemed like it wouldn’t work out. This was really upsetting, because I had really been looking forward to this place. I grumped around for some time, then decided I could probably have the “salmon toast”, so we met up and went there as planned.

I ended up ordering the appetizer sampler, which came with six different items in very small portions. The fish items didn’t seem to have heavy sauces, and nothing tasted particularly salty, so I was hopeful I’d be safe. We shared a seasonal parfait at the end of the meal, which consisted of assam tea jelly, chestnut ice cream, and sweet potato custard, with toppings of mochi, chestnuts, and a matcha (green tea) Rice Krispies treat bar. It was amazing.

Later, when I attempted to tally the nutrition information for these items, I learned that one of my appetizers, the seaweed salad, has a ton of sodium. I was not expecting that at all.

Dinner happened at a diner we passed while walking back to Kathryn’s apartment, and it wasn’t very good. I did find something I could eat: grilled chicken with steamed vegetables and a baked potato. The portion size was ludicrous. I received two full chicken breasts and enough vegetables for four people. I got tired of eating it after awhile, so I stopped eating even though I was still hungry.

The highlight of the day was Chinatown. Kathryn took me to a three-level grocery and home goods store. The top level had beauty products, home office supplies, and some cute decorative items. The middle level was the grocery store, with a wide variety of food, including tons of snacks. The bottom level, Kathryn had kept as a surprise: it was filled with dishes!

I spent ages there, going through the aisles again and again, looking at bowls and plates and cups and teapots. It was so wonderful. I haven’t had a place to shop for Japanese dishes since Hibari Market in Lexington shut down, years ago. There were so many different designs! So much blue and white! I ended up getting two medium-sized bowls in a traditional Japanese pottery style and two small bowls with a pink sakura pattern. (Here’s hoping I can pack them properly for the trip home…)

So, while my heart failure tried to ruin the day, it ultimately failed.

  • Got up, had protein shake and morning meds
  • Goofed off online and wrote a very tiny bit
  • Took a shower
  • Met up with Kathryn and went to Cha An
  • Went to Chinatown and it was awesome
  • Went back to Kathryn’s apartment, stopping at a diner on the way; took mealtime meds
  • Hung out at Kathryn’s apartment for awhile
  • Came back to the Airbnb; at this point I was grumpy
  • My host made me some eggs and toast for a snack
  • Ate the snack and then got back on my computer for awhile
  • Grumpily ate a piece of baklava
  • Took evening supplements

My mood was not great at the end of the day—I actually started crying a couple times on the walk home—but I think it was due to the day being long and tiring. I’m going to bed now, and hopefully I’ll get some good rest tonight.

CHF Recovery: Days 18, 19, and 20

So, I’m on vacation, and that means my normal routine is disrupted. I had planned and booked a trip to New York City before my heart decided to fail, and everything was nonrefundable, and I am at least able to walk around, so I came. And I’m having a great time! Here are my status updates for the first three days.

October 1

  • Got up around 9:15am
  • Had my protein shake and morning meds
  • Piddled around online
  • Had second breakfast with my Airbnb host (eggs and toast, yum!)
  • Continued piddling around online until something like 3:30pm
  • Walked from my Airbnb to Central Park
  • Wandered around Central Park a bit
  • Walked from Central Park all the way down to Times Square; it was nighttime so I got to see it all lit up
  • Went from there to Starbucks to get a chai while I waited for Kathryn
  • Met up with Kathryn and went to a diner for dinner; I had a salad and she had some sort of delicious-looking Eggs Benedict thing
  • Went back to the Airbnb and realized I had forgotten to take my evening meds with dinner
  • Ate yogurt and took meds
  • Wrote a short story
  • Went to bed at 1am

October 2

  • Got up around 9:30
  • Had protein shake and morning meds
  • Goofed off online
  • Showered and got dressed
  • Met up with Kathryn for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant
  • Had steamed cod (recommended by the American Heart Association!) and it was delicious
  • Went around the block to a coffee shop and sat with Kathryn while she had her favorite flavored coffee
  • Went back to the Airbnb and had a couple cookies and some tea while playing around online (I tried to think of something to write but was unsuccessful)
  • Got dressed for dinner in a skirt that didn’t fit me when I first got it! I looked really cute
  • Met Kathryn at our favorite (e.g., the only one we’ve ever really tried) sushi restaurant
  • Had a deluxe sushi plate, half of which I had to take back to the Airbnb
  • Also had a scoop of vanilla ice cream that was AMAZING
  • Walked back to the Airbnb

Let me just interject here that I love walking around Manhattan? It’s just so full of energy and interesting things to look at! I’ve noticed this time that everyone is doing sushi now. There is almost a sushi restaurant on every block. But what really took the cake for me? A bagel shop with the sign, “Now serving sushi!” What is happening? :D

  • Ate my leftovers while reading online and chatting
  • Went to bed at midnight

October 3

  • Slept until 10am! This seemed dramatic until I just looked at the other times I got up this week
  • Had protein shake and morning meds
  • Made myself two eggs and a piece of toast
  • Hung out with my Airbnb host for awhile
  • Went back to my room and goofed off online some more
  • Asked my Airbnb host if he had any chocolate and he DID and he GAVE IT ALL TO ME
  • I ate it all
  • Wrote 2310 words on a story and I’m not sure where it’s going or how much longer it will be!
  • Finally showered at like 5pm and put on my octopus skirt
  • Met up with Kathryn for dinner at a Greek restaurant

Let me just mention here that the walk was GREAT and it made me feel so good, because the weather was perfect! It was nighttime and dark, but not cold at all. And it wasn’t hot. It was my favorite temperature, really. Somewhere around 68-70. Ahhh it was just so comfortable. I had a spring in my step!

  • Kathryn had souvlaki with lamb and I had a gyros with rotisserie chicken and they both were made with French fries inside them and it was fascinating and delicious
  • Took my mealtime meds
  • Then we went to a froyo place
  • I had strawberry with strawberries and banana and white chocolate chips and Nilla Wafers
  • Kathryn had birthday cupcake batter with a bunch of different candies and it looked awesome
  • Neither of us could quite finish
  • Walked back to my Airbnb; it had gotten slightly chilly but not bad at all
  • Goofed off online, as is my wont
  • Couldn’t really focus on what to write next, so didn’t write anymore
  • Took evening supplements and went to bed at 11:30pm

So long, 2011. You were pretty awesome.

As the new year approached, I saw more and more of my friends posting status updates about how they were ready to see 2011 go. In many ways, I guess it has been a rough year. But I can’t help but think back on it fondly, despite the bad things that happened–the desperate situation our country is in, the hate and pain and suffering and disasters breaking out across the world. For me, 2011 was a year of growth and change and renewal and family and generosity. It was a year filled with love and hope. I want to take the power of what 2011 ignited in me and go out and share it with everyone.

I feel refreshed. I feel empowered. I feel ready.

We started the year embroiled in change. Sean had accepted a new job, and we were in the middle of a long period in which he commuted to Atlanta from Augusta for a week or two at a time. In February I hit the five-year mark at my own job, and wrote about it here. We moved to the Atlanta area at the beginning of March. I took a week off from work to coordinate the move, then went back to Augusta for a week to wrap up loose ends before beginning an approximately three-month-long period of telecommuting. I got a red velvet See You Soon cake :)

red velvet cake
After that week was over, it was back to the new apartment, which I had spent several weeks towards the end of 2010 selecting from the plethora of choices near Sean’s workplace. I wanted new or renovated apartments, nice facilities, a good location, and access to nature. I found everything I wanted, and we’ve been very happy with our new home this past year. Here’s a little something I wrote about it at the end of March.

We slowly started exploring our side of town and discovering new haunts. One of our first discoveries, Hashiguchi, ended up closing, much to our dismay. There are several other Japanese places in the area, but none have the same feel. We also discovered an Italian place, though, Scalini’s, which quickly became a favorite. And at our friend Will’s recommendation we checked out J. Christopher’s, a breakfast and brunch place, and fell in love. It’s currently my go-to restaurant (assuming I break for lunch early enough), just as the Boll Weevil was my go-to restaurant in Augusta. (They even have a door that creaks the same way!)

There’s a lot of shopping in our area as well, and as time went on I started to explore more and more of Vinings, Smyrna, and Marietta. One of my favorite landmarks is the infamous Big Chicken. Sean loves the Micro Center, which is kind of reminiscent of CompUSA. They pricematch, so he can get his quick technology fix.

Of course, there’s plenty to do in the rest of the Atlanta area. We’ve been to a comic book store in Buckhead; a Japanese restaurant, Korean barbecue, and Fry’s in Duluth; Super H-Mart, which is like Walmart for Asian food, off Peachtree Industrial; charming downtown Decatur; the aquarium and the World of Coke; the Atlanta History Center; and more. One day I drove around looking at all the furniture stores I could find, including IKEA…that was an adventure! And still so much more awaits us.

One great thing about living in Atlanta has been seeing our friends Charles and Heidi so much. I had taken several road trips from Augusta to Atlanta to visit them in the past, but now we’re free to do stuff together whenever we want! We have lots of dinners out, and we love going hiking and to cultural or interesting Atlanta destinations as well.

Heidi and Charles
For the next few months, my life consisted of telecommuting, trying to get the apartment in order, and exploring Atlanta. In May, since I was telecommuting anyway, I headed up to Kentucky and surprised Mom for Mother’s Day.

Then, around the middle of June, the station hired my replacement, so I went back to Augusta for my last two weeks to train her. On my way, I took a detour for a weekend in Savannah and had myself a nice little mini-adventure.

It was wonderful to see everyone in Augusta again. I stayed with Sean’s parents, which was really nice. I tried to get together with as many friends as possible. Brandon even managed to pull together some of the old lunch crew from years and years ago…it was awesome.

the old lunch crew
I spent some time on my last day running around getting pictures with everyone. Then, for my last night in Augusta, I spent the night at Brooke and David’s, and had breakfast with them at Cracker Barrel the next morning before heading home to Marietta.

Brooke and David
It was a wonderful last two weeks of work and a wonderful two weeks in Augusta.

Sean’s friend Adam came to visit while I was still out of town, and when I got back we took him around the neighborhood and out for sushi and frozen custard.

After that, I went back to Kentucky for the 4th of July. The fact that I was able to see my family so much was a big part of why last year was so amazing. On this visit I went swimming; I helped my brother with some sod on an area he’d leveled around a tree for seating; I spent lots of time with my nephews, including an awesome camping trip to Natural Bridge with their family; I ate ribs and fried chicken and corn on the cob and watched fireworks; I took a zillion pictures of my niece; I went shopping and out to eat with Mom; I went up to the farm and took awful pictures of the moon…basically, I had the best time ever.

And then I went to New York!

Sean’s job sent him up to the West Point area, and I got to tag along. I spent a week exploring the towns and villages along the Hudson River, including Highland Falls, Newburgh, Fishkill, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie. In Fishkill, I found a sign for the Great Indian Warrior Trading Path, which ends in Augusta. Here’s the sign and its Augusta counterpart:

Fishkill signAugusta sign
I have a few detailed summaries of my adventures around “downstate New York” that I wrote back in July. I will be posting them here shortly. In brief, my first day was spent exploring Highland Falls and Boscobel House; my second day, I went to the West Point Visitors Center and Museum, then Sean and I checked out Washington’s Headquarters. The third day was quite busy. First I went to the Van Wyck Homestead, where the above Warrior Path sign stands, then explored the lovely city of Beacon. After that I headed over to the Samuel Morse house and museum, where I also took in a car show. After that I had the singular moment of the whole New York trip, an unplanned visit to the Eleanor Roosevelt home, Val-Kill. I’ve written much more on that experience in the upcoming post; suffice it to say I’m not the same person I was before I went. I also checked out the FDR Presidential Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion grounds, then finished up my day on the Poughkeepsie riverfront. This day might possibly be the best day I spent in New York state; it is rivaled only by the next glorious day, when I took the train down to New York City.

At Grand Central Terminal, I met up with my friend Matt, who I hadn’t seen since our very first (and my last) Governor’s Scholars Program reunion, a zillion years ago. (Here we are on a boat.)

Matt and me
Matt was an amazing tour guide. I got to see so much. Since we only had one day, we concentrated on Manhattan. Matt’s recommended three-hour boat tour showed us many of the sights with views we couldn’t have gotten up close. The angles we saw of the Statue of Liberty (starting here) were spectacular.

Statue of Liberty
After the boat tour, Matt and I walked and rode the subway to a few places I was interested in seeing. This included…the apartment building used as the exterior shot for Monica and Rachel’s apartment in Friends!

Friends apartment
We also went to Times Square and Central Park, then walked up 5th Avenue to get back to Grand Central Terminal and head off our separate ways.

I hope to write in much more detail about this part of the trip later. It was a long, wonderful day, and an excellent endcap to my time in New York state. I spent the next day relaxing and recovering from two whirlwind days of awesome, then had one more mini-adventure in Cornwall-on-Hudson before Sean and I headed home.

After we got back from New York, Sean’s parents came to visit us for the first time in our new apartment. It was great to show them our place and give them a feel for our neighborhood. We took them around to our favorite haunts, and the next day we did some touristy things. It was a good visit.

Finally, there was a lull in the whirlwind of travel and visits, and I took that time to resume looking into weight loss surgery. The original plan had been to do the surgery once we lived in Atlanta, after all, and various health issues were making it obvious that the time to act was now (if it hadn’t already passed). Unfortunately, just as I started doing the paperwork for a local surgeon, we ran into some difficulties that meant it was impossible to have the surgery done here. This culminated in a trip to San Francisco as soon as I got all my medical clearances out of the way, which ended up being the end of September.

I was blessed to stay with family and thrilled to get to see much of San Francisco before my surgery date. I had never been there before–until then, the furthest west I’d traveled in the United States had been Texas–and I was excited to see everything I could. I was awed by the natural beauty of the Marin Headlands and Muir Woods and the sculpted elegance of Golden Gate Park. My uncle even took Mom and me on a drive down the famous Lombard Street on our way to an open-top bus tour which later offered us an excellent view of same.

One great thing about being in San Francisco was that I got to see my friend Hai again.

Me and Hai
We hadn’t seen each other since our first in-person meeting in Cincinnati back in April of 2008, though we’ve known each other for far longer than that thanks to the AMRN. We met up at Hog Island Oyster Company for lunch, and it was awesome. Hai is a fellow foodie, so he and Mom and I tried oysters, lobster, and a grilled cheese sandwich–an excellent last big meal before weight loss surgery ;)

The next few days were taken up with surgery prep, the surgery itself, and in-hospital recovery. I was eager to go back to my relatives’ house, so I pushed myself to walk as much as I could as soon as possible. The surgery was September 26, and I was released on the 29th.

I wrote a little about what I expected the surgery to be like here. I may write what it was actually like someday, or I may not. I never really have been one to dwell on that sort of thing. I don’t care to write about all my experiences when I had leukemia, either. Frankly, I don’t fully remember them, and I don’t really want to. Yes, I’ve had cancer, heart problems, sleep apnea, obesity, weight loss surgery–but these things don’t define me. They’re just things I’ve gone through. They are a part of what has made me what I am, but what I am has also been a part of what defeated them. Their role in my life is (or will soon be) over.

However, I will probably write about how weight loss surgery has changed me, because my approach to food is completely different now. I have a tiny stomach. I don’t absorb nutrients well, so I need to focus on getting as much protein as possible. Sugar and carbohydrates can shoot my weight loss in the foot. And white bread, white rice, and artificial sweeteners other than sucralose cause unpleasant gastic side effects for me.

These factors mean I don’t eat at all like I did before. Now I go for the meat first. I don’t eat much bread, and when I do it’s whole wheat. I don’t typically have, or even want, dessert, because by the time I’m done eating my few bites of dinner, I’m full. But I’ll get hungry again in a few hours, so I’ve started trying to keep higher-protein snacks around, like nuts and edamame. I also rely on Atkins shakes and bars for the times when I need protein fast. Since an all-protein diet can cause hard stools, I’m working to incorporate fiber when I can. I also have to make sure to drink a lot of water, not only because my new gastrointestinal configuration leeches it away, but because I’m taking a diuretic to treat my pseudotumor cerebri until I’ve lost enough weight to “cure” it permanently.

I also take a lot of supplements to get vitamins and minerals. I have to take a particular kind that my intestines are able to absorb. This will continue for the rest of my life.

Despite these constraints, you have no idea how freeing it is to not be a slave to food. I had no idea how much control food had over me. I thought I did…but I didn’t. I knew I was miserable. I knew I felt trapped. I knew I ate emotionally, or out of habit, or whenever someone else was eating, or because something looked delicious. But it never sank in just how addicted I was to food until, suddenly, I wasn’t anymore.

I told Sean, “I wish there was a surgery to help people stop smoking.”

This is not to say that going through weight loss surgery and recovery is easy. It is not. It is a lot of work, and you have to have the right attitude going in–the attitude that you are going to kick ass and take names because you are awesome. You have to know your stuff. And there will be times, many times, when you don’t want to eat, and you will have to force yourself to do so.

This concept is so alien to the former me that I don’t think I could even begin to explain it to her.

No, it’s not easy, but it works. If you know what you’re doing, if you have the right attitude, if you follow the steps you need to follow…you will lose weight. And you’ll keep losing weight. You’ll feel better than you have in years. The fact that it actually works will keep you positive, and you’ll keep going, and you’ll keep losing weight, until you hit your healthy balance and stop. I’m not there yet, but as of today I’ve lost 64 pounds…more than I’ve ever been able to lose trying to diet on my own. On my own, I had to battle my food addiction every day. Now, with this surgery, that enormous factor is simply gone. I still enjoy food…but I don’t have to have it, and I often don’t even want it.

I’m free.

Immediately after my surgery, I had to rest and recover, but also keep myself moving so I wouldn’t lose muscle strength. I felt good the majority of the time and it wasn’t long before I was off painkillers–a benefit of laparoscopic surgery is that fewer nerves get distressed. Of course, this can also be a con, if you feel so “normal” that you try to do too much too soon and end up injuring yourself. Since I’m the go-getter type, I was in danger of just that. The day after I was released from surgery, I went on a shopping trip with my mom and aunt! It was brief enough, but I tired out extremely quickly. Thankfully I hadn’t messed anything up, but looking back on it now, I’m sort of surprised at myself. I took a weekend off and relaxed with family, but then I went crazy again and accompanied my mom and aunt to Costco! Actually, I did far better than you might expect, and only felt like falling over and dying towards the end of the excursion. We sat down at the little cafe to give me time to recover, then headed back to the house.

After a checkup the next morning, my mom and aunt and I finally got the weather we were after for some Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline shots.

Golden Gate Bridge
After that we sort of just drove around looking at things. We had lunch in Sausalito, which is awesome because I’ve always wanted to say I’ve been to Sausalito (the name is cool!), and then we did a tiny bit of grocery shopping. I was getting stronger and stronger. Still, the next two days were spent relaxing and recovering from all that wandering around. Then my aunt’s dear friend came up for a visit–I’d previously met her on my first trip to Savannah–and we had a lot of fun going around the area with her. (Enjoy this nasty picture of my lunch from our day shopping in Mill Valley…I was still getting the hang of ordering protein-rich food.)

Thus ended my first-ever visit to San Francisco. So much more happened, and there was so much more that I wanted to see. Hopefully someday I will write in more detail about the trip, and I definitely plan to go back!

Obviously, after having surgery, I wasn’t really up to my usual sort of self-reliant behavior. I had to lean on Sean a lot for help with the most simple of tasks, like getting the laundry out of the washer and dryer, putting away the dishes, bringing in the groceries, moving things, etc. It was a little frustrating not being able to just do everything myself, but I persevered. While I wasn’t supposed to carry much weight or reach over my head, I was allowed and encouraged to go up and down stairs, which was good, since we live on the “garden level” (below the first floor). While I recovered I focused on walking for exercise. I did a lot of reading, breaking into the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin for the first time. I also did a little more writing in November than usual.

I did leave the apartment for one event while I was still in the recovery and adjustment period, and that was A Web Afternoon on October 22. I saw my friends Chris and Will, and organizer J. Cornelius apparently recognized me from when I attended the Webmaster Jam Session back in 2008, which is pretty cool of him. The event was really inspiring and interesting; the speakers had somewhat diverse messages and delivery methods, but they were all very enthusiastic about the web.

The end of November heralded a weeks-long flurry of travel for Sean and me. First, on November 22, we headed to Augusta for an early Thanksgiving with Cheryl and Reid, plus Cheryl’s brother Michael and his girlfriend Michelle. I made corn casserole, and I swear Michael ate about half the pan! Michelle is from China, and I got to hear a lot of interesting stories from her past–how she was sent to work on a farm by the government as a child, and how she worked hard to help her family. It was a nice visit, and the food was great. Cheryl really pulled out all the stops.

Sean, me, Reid, Cheryl, and Michael
After a brief stop in Brooke and David’s driveway to say hello, we headed back to the ATL. But I turned around the very next day and drove to Kentucky!

One of the highlights of the visit was seeing my beautiful niece, who turned 1 on November 5. She’s grown so much!

Daphne and Ben

Daphne and Ben

Given my new post-weight loss surgery reality, I wasn’t able to eat much at Thanksgiving dinner–here’s my plate. I ate all the turkey, and maybe half of everything else. It was great to just be there with my family though…I love seeing everyone!

Uncle Steve stopped by during my Thanksgiving visit home, which was great; he’s always a trip.

The day after I got back from Kentucky, I jumped into the car again for a quick weekend in Augusta. I’d been wanting to visit Brooke and hang out with people for awhile, and this was the only weekend left in the year that would work for both of us. It may have been a mistake to try to squeeze it in there–I ended up exhausted and unable to do nearly as much with Brooke as I’d hoped–but I was at least glad to see her, and to visit my friends at the station and have Teresa’s with Brandon, Ed, and Arturo. Brooke and I had dinner with Mari at Kinja, too, which was great.

Mari and Brooke

Mari and Brooke

I squeezed in a quick breakfast with Chris and Kenny and a stopover at the in-laws’ before heading back to Atlanta on Saturday. My biggest regret from the trip is not spending more time with Brooke…that will be rectified next time.

After the Augusta trip, I mercifully had two weeks in which to relax…theoretically. In reality, I had to decorate the apartment, wrap Christmas presents and prepare holiday cards. Yes, even though we were going out of town for Christmas, I still put up our tree. It was beautiful, so I think it was totally worth it! (Technically it still is beautiful…I need to take it down…) These activities brought me much more joy than annoyance. I was thrilled that I could finally give decent Christmas presents to family members; it had really been too long. I had a lot of fun selecting everyone’s gifts.

Sean and I also went to his work Christmas party the weekend of December 10. It was held at Stone Mountain Park, and we decided to spend the night at the hotel and go see the sights the next day. It was an utterly romantic weekend. I’d lost enough weight that I needed to buy a new dress, which I did. I also wore a new perfume, Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Nude, which is now my fragrance–we both love it. The party was elegant enough, and the hotel common areas were beautifully appointed, but my favorite times were when Sean and I were alone–in our room, or out exploring the park. We went down to the village after the party and wandered around looking at all the Christmas lights. The next morning we had room service in bed and a bath in our in-suite jacuzzi. We rode the skyride to the top of Stone Mountain and I got amazing views of the huge carving in the face of the rock. After we’d explored to our hearts’ content, we descended and found hot cocoa for Sean inside an exhibit hall and way too much lunch for us to ever eat at Miss Katie’s.

A particular highlight of our trip was watching a glassblowing demonstration. We saw an artisan create a decorative flower and a very unique vase. We’d already explored the shop, and nothing had quite struck our fancy there. The vase we’d just seen created was unlike anything in the store. Sean asked if we could buy it then and there. It was finished and delivered to us three days later!

After that, we had a snack and then got onto the little train that circles the mountain, watching the lights come on and listening to Christmas carols as the sun went down. When we got back, it was dark and Christmas-y in the village once again. Sean pulled me under a huge ball of mistletoe for a kiss–the perfect end to our romantic weekend away.

The week before Christmas, we headed off to Kentucky. I guess my crazy holiday running around, plus the fact that I was still recovering from surgery, caught up to me, because I felt like I got worn out pretty quickly. Still, I was able to do a lot with my nephews, including getting some one-on-one time with each of them, which I think is important. I also spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad. I didn’t get a chance to go to the farm, but fortunately Ben and Manda and Daphne came down twice while we were there.

I had a wonderful Christmas. I loved seeing everyone open their presents. I think I did well with what I picked for everyone. I had trouble coming up with ideas for a couple of people, but it all seemed to work out in the end.

I love gift-giving. I love how personal it is, how it shows what you feel for the other person. I’m so glad we were able to give gifts this year.

Before everyone dispersed on Christmas Eve, Dan was kind enough to snap some photos of the family for us. It’s hard to get this many people into a picture, but I think it worked out okay :)

my family
Would you believe even that isn’t the end of 2011? After we got home from Kentucky, Sean had his friend William over for a few days of gaming and fun.

William and Sean
William is a charming guest and a funny guy, and it was great to have him around. We’re looking forward to meeting his fiancée when they both come to visit us sometime this year.

After William headed home on the afternoon of December 31, Sean and I quietly rang in the New Year watching Smallville season 10. (I belatedly noticed the clock had ticked over and mentioned something on Twitter; I have no idea if Sean was even paying attention. Similarly, I just realized we both forgot our ninth wedding anniversary, which was yesterday.)

And that was 2011. It was a big year in so many ways, full of friends, fun, travel, and change. I loved it.

Here’s to more of the same in 2012!