Diary Ponderings Writing

Today, I choose writing.

I’ve finally come to accept something I think I knew all along: I should be a writer. So starting now, I will be taking significant steps to make that a reality. I’ve already been writing blog posts and charting out ideas when inspiration strikes me, but now I will work toward the goal of publication. I’m going to be evaluating various routes–fiction, nonfiction, long form, short form, magazine articles, targeted blogs, serials, comics, maybe even screenwriting–and trying to come up with the best fits for the stories I want to tell.

It all came together

In the past, whenever people told me I should be a writer, I’d always respond, “Sure, maybe, but I have nothing to say.” I think perhaps I just needed to build up life experience and let it all simmer for awhile, because all of a sudden I have plenty of ideas and desire to write.

I think fear played a role too–fear of what people would think, fear of what effect the things I wrote would have on my life. But these days I’m more afraid of what might happen if I don’t say something. It’s oddly given me an amazing sense of freedom.

I’m very lucky that I’m in a position where I can pursue something that won’t have financial benefits for years, if it even has them at all. As such, I am throwing myself into it headfirst and making some serious changes in order to give myself the best chance of success.

Maximizing workday efficiency

The first big change will be social media. When I first started using Twitter, I used it as a microblog, and I really haven’t stopped using it that way. However, few others use it that way, and Twitter obviously doesn’t want me to use it that way. I am unable to go back and read my old tweets, and as such many thoughts and ideas are simply lost. So my first change (and challenge) will be to stop posting my stream of consciousness thoughts on Twitter, and instead put them somewhere where I can use them later.

My second Twitter change will be some mass unfollowings, and perhaps following a few new accounts. At time of posting, I follow 156 accounts. Some of them I follow because they are funny. Some of them I follow because they are friends of mine. I have a smattering of Japanese twitterers I follow for the purpose of having Japanese in my stream to practice reading. And then I have a collection of people in the web design industry who I follow to keep up with trends and information.

I will evaluate the “funny” accounts on a case-to-case basis and see if they warrant keeping. Are they funny enough to spend time reading every day? For my friends, if I am friends with them on Facebook, their Twitter accounts must go. Most of them cross-post, so I won’t miss anything but annoying redundancy. For the ones who don’t cross-post, I’ll evaluate them the same as I evaluate the “funny” accounts. Ultimately, does reading these tweets help me pursue my goal or just waste my time? I will cull some of the Japanese twitter accounts, especially the ones I know I just scroll past without trying to read, but there are a few I know I would like to keep. I will also keep Japanese-culture related Twitter accounts. And finally, I will purge all web design-related Twitter accounts. I do not intend to ever again pursue web design as a career. I’ve come to realize that the things I enjoyed about that sphere were content writing/editing and graphic design/layout, and I have no interest in wrangling code. Since I am now resolved to focus on writing, I have no need to read about CSS tips and tricks.

I will start to look for more people interested in writing and storytelling, and follow them for inspiration. I will also look for people who are interested in the same issues I’m interested in. But I won’t let my follow list get so large that a significant portion of my day is taken up catching up on my feed.

Facebook will largely remain the same, though I will prune some Page “likes”. I may add a few new friends so as to get them out of Twitter. Facebook is more private for me, though, so this will be done only after careful evaluation.

I will probably stop using Path. All I ever do there is tell it when I wake up and when I go to sleep, and very occasionally check in to a location.

I am very interested in continuing my study of Japanese. It’s my hope that someday I’ll be good enough at reading the language, and have a strong enough appreciation for and understanding of the culture, that I can translate literature. To that end, I’m going to be removing a few motivational websites and social media accounts from my routine. I once thought that any site that offered motivation would motivate me, but I’ve recently realized that my personality requires a certain type of motivation, and other types can actually demotivate me very quickly. Anything that makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough will make me throw up my hands and give up entirely. One site in particular is written by a person with completely different goals from mine, and I discovered that I was feeling bad because I wasn’t working hard enough on his goals! Even though I know it’s not this blogger’s intent to make me feel this way, nor any other’s, I have to be aware of my own personality and reactions and cut out any negativity, regardless of where it comes from.

Once I have cut out social media distractions and demotivators, the time I spend overall on social media should automatically decrease. I plan to ensure this by not leaving a tab with Twitter or Facebook open at all times, as has become habit. I further pledge to start my day as a producer rather than a consumer. I currently have a habit of reading Twitter and Facebook while I’m getting ready in the bathroom, then reading webcomics when I get to my computer. Instead of engaging in these distracting and procrastinating activities, I’ll think about my day while I’m getting ready, and maybe even start brainstorming what I’m going to be writing and taking audio or text notes with my phone. And when I get to my computer, I’ll start working. Simple as that.

I’ve considered even creating a separate Windows user account for when I am working, and blocking certain websites and applications that could be distractions. But I know that too much change all at once is difficult to maintain long term, so for now I will see how the above adjustments go.

Tools of the trade

Right now I don’t have a great system in place for capturing and then revisiting writing ideas. I’ve been using iPhone voice memos and notes when I’m out and about and Word documents and blog post drafts when I’m at my computer. This piecemeal approach has been okay while I really haven’t been doing anything with most of my ideas, but it isn’t very conducive to getting writing projects out the door. Ideally I will find a way to bring all of these things together so I can easily find them. I’ve been thinking about a cute yarn clothesline with clothespins to hold fancy notecards with the name of current projects. On the backs of the cards I can list where the research information and notes are stored physically and digitally. It would be a fun way to see all my projects at once and keep me focused without cluttering up my desk. I’ll have to think about where such an apparatus would actually go, though.

I already have information on getting published (or, perhaps more accurately, getting rejected) from discussing the topic in my creative writing classes in college and from reading Magazine Man’s blog. I have a few leads on literary journals and know how to find more, and I have ideas about what sorts of magazine I might want to write for. So when the time comes, I think I should be okay to start sending out short stories, essays, and articles. I am also obviously well-versed in blogging, though perhaps not in cultivating an audience. I’m not so clear on how to begin with writing for comics; I would need an artist to bring the story to life, but even writing a comic script is new to me. I will research whether or not there are templates or examples available anywhere. I know there is a format for TV and movie scripts, so all I’ll need to do is find it and study it. As to where one might submit a pitch, again, I’m unsure, but this is only the beginning, and I have lots of research to do. And writing, which is the most important thing.

As far as where I’ll do the writing, I’ve always been most comfortable in Word documents, probably because that’s where I wrote all my college papers. However, I can certainly see the benefit of using an online service, such as Google Documents, and being able to access my files anywhere I go. It’s something I’ll have to think about, but for now I will stick with Word. I will probably sign up for something like DropBox to make sure I don’t lose anything.

Starting out

I’ve heard that six hours is the longest viable block of working writing time. I’m not going to start out shooting for that–going from nothing to six hours would burn me out fast. Instead, I will write until I’m fatigued every day and not worry about how long I write. I know there will be days when I don’t feel like writing, and for now, as I ease into it, I will use those days for research. In the future, though, after I’ve established a writing routine, I will write through the block to keep myself going, and try to hit at least my minimum writing time.

Looking forward

I’m excited to finally have direction in my life. For so long I’ve been reactionary, just accepting whatever came my way and dealing with everything day by day. In recent years I’ve started taking charge of my health, and that has empowered me to take charge of so much more. I’ve learned just how destructive and demoralizing bouncing through life aimlessly can be, and even though I’m scared, I’m putting a stop to the uncontrolled ricocheting and propelling myself towards a goal.

Here I come, universe.

Diary Food Pr0n Health

Sayonara, unajuu

One of the strangest things for me about weight loss surgery has been the change in my reactions to food. Some foods I used to adore are now too bland for me; some foods I didn’t really care much about have gained extreme importance. Of course, there are foods I’m supposed to be avoiding, but even when I cheat and let myself have a small bite, I often discover that I don’t like it enough to warrant the cheating.

One example of how things have changed: I am very picky about meat products now. Most ground beef dishes, like burgers and meatloaf, are too dry for me. I tend to find them flavorless and unpleasant. I have also grown tired of eggs, no matter how they’re cooked; I’ll eat them if they’re what’s available and I know I need the protein, but they no longer give me any satisfaction. (Part of me wonders if I might find farm fresh eggs more palatable. I’ll have to give it a try sometime.) Ham doesn’t thrill me, but it gets the job done…but I love a good pork chop. And of course, steak is marvelous. I eat them rarer than I used to, because that way they’re nice and juicy and soft. We’ve started going to Ted’s here in Atlanta, and I’m addicted to bison steak. Fish also makes me happy. I love a good grilled or broiled salmon fillet, and I’d eat sashimi every day if I could–but it has to be good sashimi. If it’s possible, I’m even pickier about sashimi now than I was before.

I still enjoy cottage cheese, but I have become even pickier about brands. There was once a time when I could eat a non-favorite brand and be okay with it, but now, unless it’s Walmart brand, I can’t stand the stuff. I don’t know what it is about how Walmart makes their cottage cheese versus the way the other companies make theirs, but something is different to my now overly sensitive palate.

Then there’s sweets. I always had a sweet tooth before. Cookies, pastries, brownies, cakes, chocolate candy, anything chocolate really…I’d gobble it all up without heeding quality or quantity. Now, of course, I’m almost completely off sugar, except in cases when it’s unavoidable. There are times when I let myself have some sugary snack–usually when traveling, because I don’t keep that sort of thing in the house–but when I do, it never meets my expectations. It always feels pointless. The taste doesn’t do anything for me. I can vividly remember how eating sweets used to make me feel, but now, after having weight loss surgery, eating them will never make me feel that way again. It is such a strange feeling…almost a feeling of loss, until I remember that this change is what has allowed me to drop 100 pounds.

That brings me to unagi.

In 2001, I went to Japan for the first time. It was an amazing trip that changed my life. While I was there, I had unagidon, barbecued eel over a bowl of rice, for the first time. I promptly dubbed it my favorite dish in the world and sought it out thereafter as much as possible. Towards the end of my homestay in Yatsushiro, my host mother, noting how much I adored unagidon, made me a huge bowl with a double helping. I ate it all.

Since then I’ve found unagidon and its sister dish unagijuu (also called unadon and unajuu, respectively) in various restaurants in the US, including my former favorite Augusta Japanese restaurant (which unfortunately seems to have gone downhill in recent years). Here’s some delicious unadon I had there in 2008, complete with onions.

You're supposed to eat unadon on Eel Day to build stamina for the summer heat.

I hadn’t had unadon or unajuu since the surgery, until the other night at Haru Ichiban in Duluth. I was trying to go for something with plenty of protein, since it’s easy to mess up and maximize carbs in a Japanese restaurant. I didn’t even think about sugar. Here’s the unajuu:

My last box of unajuu.
My last box of unajuu.

Look at that sauce. Unlike the unadon above, this unajuu is saturated. Apart from sopping it all up with a napkin (which I didn’t think of until just now), there really was no way to avoid the sauce. And, unfortunately for me, that sauce is sweet.

I mentioned that when I eat sweets like candy or cookies they don’t really do much for me. Because of this, I usually don’t continue eating them. On the rare occasions that I do, though, I get this really nasty feeling in my chest, between my neck and my stomach. It’s this weird gurgling feeling, highly unpleasant. And it only happens when I eat sugar in high concentration.

Let me tell you, that unajuu made me miserable after just a few bites.

I stopped, ordered some salmon sashimi to get my protein, and spent the rest of the evening trying not to throw up. I was successful, yay! But that put the nail in the coffin of my once passionate affair with unajuu…and perhaps unadon as well, if it’s made with that same concentration of sauce.

Goodbye, unajuu. I loved you once, and somewhere inside I love you still, but it’s no longer meant to be.

Diary Health

No longer obese

me at 167 poundsAs of yesterday morning, I weigh an astonishingly low 166.6 pounds. That’s a hundred pounds less than the highest weight I ever reached, and 90.4 pounds less than I weighed on September 26, 2011, the day I had weight loss surgery. Now, six months out from that surgery, my BMI has plummeted from 45.5, class III obesity, to 29.5–toward the top of the “overweight” range.

I am no longer obese.

I am no longer obese.

I knew this was coming. Whenever I saved my weight in Weightbot on my iPhone, it would tell me my BMI, and I knew that as soon as I hit 29.9 I would no longer be obese. I felt like I was in the 30s forever. I thought about checking to see what weight I’d need to reach to get out of the obesity range, but I somehow never got around to doing that. This month I ended up traveling a lot and didn’t have access to my scale…so while I usually try to wait a few days to a week between weigh-ins, yesterday’s came after a far longer data-free period than usual.

I didn’t even really realize it had happened when I tracked my weight. I saw the 29 and it just didn’t register. It was only this morning, when I weighed in on the Wii Fit, that the truth resounded in my ears: a different, higher in pitch humpty-dumpty “you’re fat” melody, and the Wii Balance Board character, who for years has admonished me, “That’s obese!”, chirped instead, “That’s overweight!”

I don’t know how much more weight I’m going to lose. I’d need a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 to be considered in the “normal” range; for my height, that would mean a weight between 104.5 and 140.5. I’m really not interested in weighing 104.5. My mid range, a BMI of 21.7 at 122.5 lbs, seems about as small as I’d want to go. I don’t really know what I’d look like at that weight, because in high school, at my most fit, I weighed around 145 to 150.

I don’t even really know what weight I want to be. I used to say I wanted to go for 125 and that I’d be happy with 140, but I can’t imagine what I would look like at either weight. I’m actually pretty happy with how I look now, although I’d like to get rid of some flab. I hope I don’t lose so much weight that my natural curviness goes away.

Regardless, I am extremely pleased with the results of my hard work so far, and I hope I can continue refining my body and becoming even more healthy. I updated the comparison photo I made three months after surgery, and included clothes sizes this time. It’s amazing to me to look back at the changes. (Click to embiggen.)

before and after photosI’m wearing the same shirt in the first two photos, and I thought about wearing it again in the next two, but once a shirt is too big for you, it starts getting unflattering. I did put it on this last time, though; here’s a picture. Rather than hiding fat, the ruffles now hide my lack thereof, which defeats the entire purpose! ;)

Diary Ponderings

Fat dream

Last night I dreamed about going to some sort of meeting. I don’t really remember what the meeting was about, just that there was a guy who seemed to be the leader who said several things that he’d already said in the email he sent out when he called the meeting. I was glad to be there; I felt I was with like-minded people and that we could perhaps accomplish something, though I don’t remember what.

What I do remember about this dream is catching sight of myself in a mirror and being taken aback by how fat I looked. I was wearing jeans and a pink-purple sweater, an outfit I’ve worn before, and I was sitting down, which is the worst way to see yourself when you’re obese. I didn’t look the way I look now. I wasn’t 179 pounds. I was probably 260.

I looked something like this:

me at approximately 260 pounds
me at approximately 260 pounds, June 2011

It was really jarring…and yet really familiar. I recognized myself. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t horribly depressed. I had a sort of resigned acceptance, like, “Yeah, that’s me.”

The thing is…that’s not me. I don’t look like that. I look like this:

me at 179 pounds, today
me at 179 pounds, today

And there’s another weird thing. I can’t recall ever identifying as obese in my dreams before. In my dreams, I always just identified as me. I kind of assumed that my dream self embodied my ideal self.

Maybe my subconscious is confused now that my real body is transforming into something closer to my ideal body than to my obese body, so to keep the existing balance, it’s just flipping the roles. But I really don’t want to think of myself as obese when I’m not. (Technically, I’m still obese, but I won’t be forever.) I want to have a healthy understanding and acceptance of my body as it is. I don’t want to wish for an impossible ideal or long for my known, comforting blubber.

I’ve been thinking more about how I’ve used weight as a shield. I’ve used it as an excuse not to bother learning how to do hair and makeup, because why bother to try to look pretty when you’re fat? Only now when I want to look cute or beautiful, I don’t know how. I’ve used weight as a security blanket, irrationally believing that no one would want to rape me because being fat made me unattractive, and this is now leading me to irrationally believe that I’m turning myself into a target by losing weight. I’ve used my weight as a way to avoid fundamental questions I’ve been having as to what it means to be a woman–the fatter I was, the less feminine I felt. (The infertility contributed to that, too.) I’ve quietly used my weight as an excuse as to why I’m not a social butterfly, why I don’t get invited to parties, why people all around me seem to instantly forge connections while I struggle to make one good friend. That “people would like me if I was pretty” feeling defined my high school existence and sent ripples out into my adulthood, even though I knew the real reason was that I’m simply not an extrovert. I felt comfortable getting fatter and fatter because I could use it as an excuse as to why no one ever called or texted me.

Thankfully, in recent years I have begun to deal with that last problem, so I probably won’t be shocked when I become thin and the world doesn’t come rushing to my door. I have friends, good friends, relationships that I have worked to maintain. I may not be clubbing or partying or whatever, but that’s not who I am. I’m happiest when I’m learning, discussing, hearing someone’s story, appreciating beauty, exploring. And I’ve found friends who also love those things.

But that still leaves all the other things, and perhaps more issues I haven’t identified yet.

So, right now, I reject the idea that my obesity and infertility make me less of a woman. Hell, I reject the idea that womanhood can be so easily defined, and I reject the idea that it needs to be. I reject the idea that obesity defines me. I reject the idea that it’s too late for me to learn how to do hair and makeup–please! And I reject the idea that I can or should do anything to my body to make myself more or less appealing to a lowlife rapist.

I’ll press on, one foot in front of the other. I’ll keep writing when I need to. I’ll identify these mental demons when they rise up, and then I’ll knock them the hell down.

me at 179 pounds, today

Adventure Diary Ponderings Travel

Thoughts of Birmingham

A few weeks ago, Sean and I went to Birmingham, Alabama for his work. I took two days to explore some of the city’s attractions and had a really good time, despite the cold, rainy weather.

Last night, I had a dream that I was in Birmingham looking into some fictional university. The place was huge and architecturally impressive, and I also found it to be forward-thinking. For some reason Willow, the character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was there with me. It started snowing. (These two parts of the dream may be related to my watching several episodes from Buffy season three before bed.)

Then a tornado siren started going off. Thinking back to my time living in Huntsville, I wondered whether Birmingham was also within Tornado Alley, and whether frequent storms were something I’d have to get used to. Willow and I checked out the sky looking for funnel clouds, but my good sense prevailed and we holed up in the basement of a building on campus.

In the dream, I remember being really excited to move to Birmingham. Indeed, I enjoyed visiting, and there were many places I could see myself returning to again and again, like the Botanical Gardens or the Museum of Art. And really, I am the type of person who craves change and enjoys the challenge of getting to know a new place. For a laugh, I checked Google Maps to see how far Birmingham is from my family in Kentucky compared to where we live now, and it’s not that different. Plus, the route would be new and interesting: instead of old, familiar I-75, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, I’d take I-65 through Nashville. The thought of all these new adventures is actually pretty exciting.

But realistically, I can’t say I want to move right now. For one thing, there’s no reason to, beyond my illogical wanderlust. I can’t say that I saw enough of Birmingham in the two days I spent exploring it to know that I would be happy there. I don’t know what the job market is like. Birmingham is slightly farther from my family and double the distance from Sean’s. And the base for Sean’s work is here. He may get dispatched to Birmingham and other locations occasionally, but being here is the most economical.

Still, it’s fun to have these flights of fancy from time to time. At the very least, I know that if I want to, I can visit Birmingham as easily as I can visit Augusta. And I still have plenty more to learn about Atlanta. I’ve barely even scratched the surface.

There are plenty of adventures to be had without moving somewhere new.

(That sounded convincing, right?)

Diary Health

Weight loss and health update

Today I am three and a half months out from weight loss surgery. This morning I weighed in 67.6 pounds lighter than I did the morning of my surgery. I also passed under the 190 pound mark; almost exactly a month ago, I made it under 200 pounds.

Here’s a graph of my weight loss to date, courtesy of SparkPeople, which I’ve been using to track weight, protein, and exercise:

Weight loss graph 9/26/11 - 01/16/12As you can see, there is a precipitous drop at the beginning, then a steadier decline past that, with some near-plateauing around the holidays.

I obviously haven’t reset my goal line in quite some time, so please ignore it. At this point I think my goal is 140, but I wouldn’t say no to lower. I’m not sure how low a weight I can actually achieve, though; I have a feeling it might be tied to my weight as an adolescent. I was in the 140s in high school, until senior year, when I quit kung fu and ballooned. I’m not sure what my weight was in middle school. When I had cancer, the lowest weight I hit was 145. And I looked good at 145, so I won’t complain if that’s where I end up. I just don’t want to shoot myself in the foot if I can possibly achieve more.

For the first three months, I had to be careful of my stomach and focus on healing. I couldn’t lift heavy objects or even reach over my head much. Exercise was limited to walking. Since my Christmas week appointment with the physician’s assistant at my surgeon’s office, though, I have had the go-ahead to do ab exercises, so long as I stop immediately if there’s any pain. I’ve started out with the Wii Fit and some old workout videos I used to much success back in 2008. (I’d gladly name them, except their distributor is a supporter of SOPA.)

It really surprised me how winded and sore I was after my first 20 minutes of Wii Fit. I commented on Facebook, “You know you’re out of shape when…” But the next day I did a 20-minute workout video, and while it was difficult, I got through to the end. And then the next day, I went back to Wii Fit, and I was already stronger and had more endurance. The truism from my old kung fu class keeps coming back to me: The more you do, the more you are able to do.

I went back and forth between Wii Fit and the 20-minute workout video for a week. The next week, Sean and I went out of town for five days, and I only exercised for three of those: the elliptical one day, then a load of walking on the following two as I explored the historic city of Birmingham, Alabama. (There will be blog posts and pictures from this trip later.) When we got back, I resumed my Wii Fit/video routine immediately without too much trouble.

I’m already starting to get bored, though, which has always been my problem with exercise. If I want to keep up my weight loss without losing muscle tone, I need to work my muscles, so I’m going to have to go ahead and change up my routine some. My goal will be to come up with various routines that don’t burn too many calories (since it’s difficult for me to replenish them) but still give me a good workout and build muscle tone. SparkPeople has some weight routines I can use over at the apartment complex’s fitness center, for example.

One hope of mine has been to build up to the point that I can start Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred once I’m six months out from surgery. I’ve heard amazing things about this video and seen some incredible before and after photos online. I bought it before I even had the surgery, but I haven’t tried it yet.

A friend has also been talking and blogging about the Tracy Anderson Method recently. I’ve been very impressed by her results. I think once I get closer to the end of my weight loss, this might be the way to power through those last pounds, and maybe get my weight down lower than I thought I could get it. Of course, there are two things I have to remember. One is that if I start a difficult workout program to lose weight, I will need to keep doing it to maintain my weight. I can’t just hit my target weight and then go, “Okay, I’m done!” and stop exercising and eating healthily. While the rearrangement of my insides should keep me from easily becoming obese again, it will not keep me from packing on extra weight. So I will have to consider whether I want to add a difficult workout routine to my daily life forever. Perhaps the answer to this question should be yes. I do want to be active for the rest of my life. I love biking and I’d like to try running again. I want to go on long hikes. I want to climb one of those indoor rock climbing walls, though I’m not sure I’d actually try climbing an actual rock face. In any case, I want to be capable of physical feats. If I want those things, it naturally follows that I should incorporate rigorous exercise into my everyday routine.

The second thing I need to remember is that the lowest weight I hit during this “rapid weight loss” period is not the weight at which I will stay. I have been told to expect that I will lose and lose and lose, and then it’ll stop, and then I will gain some back, and that will be my true weight for the rest of my life (assuming I maintain it properly). So even if I do the Tracy Anderson Method there at the end and lose a bunch of weight and get down to the unimaginable weight of 125, I have to realize I won’t stay there. To maintain 125 for the rest of my life, I’d have to go down to 115 or something even more ridiculous, then go back up.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’d look like at 125. I got that number from a couple of online “What should I weigh?” charts that asked for my age, sex, and height. On BMI charts, my own arbitrary goal of 140 is at the upper end–right at the cusp of being overweight (BMI 25-29.9). 125 is pretty much right at the middle of my “healthy” range (BMI 22).

Having been obese (BMI 30+) for most of my adulthood and into class III obesity (BMI 40+) for the last few years (until recently), and having weighed in the 140s as an adolescent, I’m not sure I can reach the “magic number” of 125, or if I even want to, especially given that I would have to lose past 125 to ultimately get to 125. But part of me is still curious.

At this point, I think the best thing to do is to decide what sort of lifestyle I want and not worry too much about numbers. I’ll continue to track my weight and celebrate loss milestones, but I won’t set a “goal”. And I’ll think about the sorts of physical activities I want to do and how to start incorporating them into my life, and what tools would be the most beneficial.

And I’ll remember that this is something I’m doing for me. Not for the people who make BMI charts, not for a cultural conception of beauty. I’m doing this, ultimately, to be healthy and happy and able to continue hearing people’s stories and exploring this beautiful planet.

Before and after weight loss photos

Adventure Diary Ponderings

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 fiancĂ©e 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!

Diary Health Ponderings

Ready to go

All my pre-op tests and clearances are out of the way, and my weight loss surgery date is set. Due to various privacy concerns, I won’t get into exactly when and where I’m having it done, but I at least wanted to let you know things were moving along quickly.

Now that I’m to this stage, the excitement has been shifting to nervousness. I’m thinking about all the arrangements I need to make beforehand and all the immediate changes there will be to my lifestyle. Last night I dreamed I went to the surgery location only to discover I was completely unprepared, and while I was considering going back home to prep, my car was stolen out from under my nose. Pretty obvious dream symbolism, eh?

But despite my nervousness, “cold feet” or whatever you might want to call the feeling you get before a major life change, I know this is the best thing I can do for myself and my family. I’ll live longer. I’ll be able to do more. I’ll have more energy. It’s going to be awesome.

So I’ll allow myself to be a little scared, for now, as I say goodbye to my former self. Very soon I’ll have the help I need to become even better than I already am. ;)

Diary Health


All that’s left for my prescreening for weight loss surgery is an echocardiogram (a stress echo was deemed unnecessary), which I’ll have on Monday. Then, once all test results are in to the surgeon, the date will be set and I’ll be off to change my life!

I’ve been thinking about plans, both short term and long. In the long term, I’m looking forward to all the things I’ll be able to do, or do more easily, once I’m no longer obese. I can’t assume I’ll ever get down to an ideal weight; I’ll probably still be a little overweight once I’m done losing. But I should get close, like to 140 or so. That will give me the freedom to wear more clothes styles, to feel better about myself in a swimsuit, and to do things like go horseback riding and on zipline adventures. I expect I’ll have even better endurance for hiking, which will be awesome, because I love exploring the outdoors. And without all the extra weight to stress my joints, I should be able to run again, and hopefully faster and for a longer period of time than an hour. Maybe I’ll even break a half an hour 5K, which back at the peak of my running seemed like an impossible dream.

I’m sure people judge me, consciously or subconsciously, for being obese. Once I’m down to a more reasonable weight, I expect I’ll do better in face-to-face interviews. I’ll also have more self-confidence…but I haven’t been sitting around waiting for weight loss to give me that. I’ve learned a lot in the past several years about personal interactions, and I think I’ve done pretty well. Losing the weight will just give me an extra advantage.

One of my dreams is to travel more, and once I’ve lost weight, I’ll be more physically able to handle a lot of travel. My back and knees won’t suffer from long walks through new cities, and I’ll have so much more energy.

There’s also the hope and promise of motherhood. It’s possible, though a long shot, that losing weight will help me to become pregnant. But even if not, once this is done, I will be healthy enough to raise a child. If we can’t conceive naturally, Sean and I plan to adopt.

The weight loss will help my health in other ways. It should stop the pseudotumor cerebri, the intracranial pressure behind my eyes that is threatening to blind me. My sleep apnea should end. My heart should do a lot better without the extra strain of carrying so much weight all the time. The changes to my diet and nutrient absoption will help my blood pressure and cholesterol.

Some of the health changes will happen fast. The rest of these dreams (and more) lie waiting for me about two years from now, after I’ve had the surgery and gone through the rapid weight loss that follows. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to get there.

First will be the actual surgery itself. It’s laparoscopic, meaning they go in using long, skinny surgical implements rather than cutting you completely open. With this kind of surgery, recovery time is much shorter…but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a cakewalk. I’ll still be in pain and discomfort for a couple weeks afterward.

I’ll also have the immediate change in my digestive system to deal with. My stomach will be reduced to a tiny pouch, so I won’t be able to eat much at all. I’ll have to switch to eating a bite here and there rather than a full meal. Unlike the lap band, the duodenal switch does curb hunger, but it will still be an adjustment. It’s possible my attitude toward food will change and I won’t want to eat at all, in which case I’ll have to force myself to get the nutrients I need. The most important thing will be protein…in the beginning I’ll be eating a lot of meat. Long term, I will probably need to take a lot of vitamin pills, and I may end up drinking protein shakes too.

Just a couple days after surgery, they’ll want me to be up and walking. I know I won’t feel like it, but this will be important to my recovery and to maintaining my muscle mass. I’ll need to keep moving around during recovery and maintain a good exercise routine afterward. That will continue not just during the rapid weight loss, but for the rest of my life. My plan is to always keep walking and hiking, since I enjoy those activities, and then rotate in other activities like running or biking or a workout video when the mood hits me. I also plan to develop some sort of weight lifting routine, enough to stay toned, but not bulk up.

Finally, I’ll need to see a doctor yearly for the rest of my life to make sure everything is okay. (I see doctors at least that often already, and you should see how many pills I take daily…so this isn’t really a big deal.)

So yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said this surgery would change my life. It’s not a quick fix or a miracle cure or magic. It’s a lot of work. But it will help me achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle, allow me to be happier and more active, and hopefully extend my life. I’m really excited for my future.

Diary Health

A challenge changes shape

I have always wanted to be a mother. I like to tell people that I’ve thought about having children since I was a child, because it’s true and because it sounds good. I like to read about teaching methods and childhood development and what effects experience can have on personality and learning. I often think about what sort of environment I want to provide for my children, how I want them to feel comfortable and safe and loved, and how I’d like to foster in them a love of exploration and creation and imagination. To this day, when I hear about a fun trip or project, I think about doing it with my kids.

Two things came along in my life to derail my assumptions. Neither of them managed to snuff out my dreams, no matter how hard they tried. But together, it seemed that they would see to it that my dreams never became a reality.

The first thing, of course, was cancer. I was diagnosed with biphenaltypic leukemia in 1997, and the three rounds of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant I underwent to conquer that disease effectively destroyed my ovaries–or, perhaps, the eggs inside them. I only have regular periods when I’m on hormone replacements, and despite having nothing but unprotected sex throughout my seven-year marriage to Sean, we have never had so much as a miscarriage.

Through my struggles with this reality, Sean always told me to face reality, to try to be happy without my dream. Sean didn’t want children; that was the second thing.

He never wanted kids. Never dreamed about it, never thought about it except when I talked about it. The most he would ever agree was that he’d accept it if I happened to get pregnant; aggressive fertility treatments and adoption simply weren’t things he was interested in. There was a time when I tearfully tried to express just how important having children was to me…he was silent for a time and then said quietly, “I didn’t think it was a deal-breaker.”

It wasn’t, of course. I knew how Sean felt when I married him. I married him because I loved and still love him, not because I expected him to give me everything I wanted. I’ve come to realize that Sean doesn’t fully grasp how much I love him, how leaving him to pursue one of my dreams simply isn’t an option.

And so, over the past ten years as I struggled with the knowledge of my infertility and had doors slammed in my face with every test, I was alone. Sean ached for me, but never with me. He wanted me to be happy. He wanted me to forget about having kids and just enjoy my life with him.

In a way, that made it a little easier. At least that way, if I couldn’t give him children, I wasn’t disappointing him.

But that part of the equation fell away last weekend, when Sean said, as if I’d known it all along, “I still want to have a daughter one day. Just one. Of course, with my luck, we’d end up with a boy. I’d like us to be able to have a kid, but if that’s not possible…I would be okay with adoption.”

We’ve got a lot going on right now. We’re planning to move across town, and Sean’s trying to get a certification and move on with his career. Once that’s settled I will be undergoing elective surgery. We won’t be ready to try expensive fertility treatments for a year after that.

But that’s the plan now. It may be too late…or it may never have been possible. But we’ll try.

And if that fails, it looks like we’ll be adopting.

I honestly don’t know how to feel. This isn’t a too-good-to-be-true situation, but it’s still so much more than I was led to expect these past ten years.

My world view, which for so long has felt so narrow, seems suddenly to have expanded. If I just turn my head, I feel like I could see it all.

But I can’t bring myself to go all-in just yet. Not with all the disappointments I’ve already gone through.

At this point I will clamp down and allow myself only the tiniest cautious flicker of hope.


The battle within

Lately I have been struggling with things I want to do, things I need to do, things I absolutely have to do, and things I think I should do. I’ve been stressed and unhappy for most of this week, a striking contrast to last week, when I felt like I could do anything. I ended up burning out and crashing hard and it sucked.

I feel like I go through cycles of mood and competence. Normally it doesn’t flip so fast from week to week, though.

I’m reevaluating lots of things. What do I definitely want, and how can I get it? What things do I have to do every day to make those goals happen? Is there anything I can cut out to save time and energy?

Moving to North Augusta would help–I would be able to walk or bike to work, maximizing my commute by combining it with exercise. But I doubt it will solve all my problems.

So here I am at Boll Weevil, seeking comfort in warm familiarity, settling in with a Curious George, chips, and tea.

I hope I can figure this out.

Diary Ponderings

Don’t run

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve always had a problem properly pacing myself. Here’s a little story that illustrates that fact pretty well.

My first trip to Japan in 2001 was not a leisurely excursion. We were constantly on the move and we were always walking, whether it was to explore a certain area or just to get to our next destination.

In Kyoto, we spent a day wandering through the sprawling temples and shrines of Mt. Hiei. It was long day of hiking through the mountains.

Towards the end of the day we were headed back the way we came, so we could get to a trolley that would take us back down the mountain. We came to a temple at the foot of a long flight of wide stone stairs. I was feeling good. I’d made it through the long day and felt energetic enough to tackle those steps. And so I started briskly jogging up, to make the trip to the top shorter.

Our instructor Todd and my classmate Jason, both experienced hikers, immediately yelled at me, “No! Don’t run!” Startled, I slowed down as they explained: running up the stairs would take more energy than walking up them, and I’d wear myself out for the rest of the trip back.

I wasn’t sure I believed this was true. At least if I ran I could get it over with, and I might even enjoy it. Plodding up the stairs seemed like a neverending trial.

Still, I did as they suggested. It turned out that after that we had longer to go to the trolley than I’d thought. By the end of our hike my legs were only moving through the sheer force of my will. The trolley ride was but a brief respite, and soon we were trudging through the streets of Kyoto. When finally we stopped at a restaurant for a meal, I was so exhausted that all I could manage to eat was a bowl of white rice.

I wondered how it would have been if I had gone ahead and run the stairs. Would I have even made it to the trolley?

I realized even then that this story was a metaphor for life, but until yesterday I hadn’t applied it to my work. Now I see that I’ve been trying to run from 10 in the morning until 7 at night. Some days I’ve managed it. Some days I’ve stumbled. And some days I’ve been numb while I recovered. The end result? I’ve managed to excel at work, but pretty much everything else has fallen to the wayside.

I want to do more. I don’t want to pass out before I even get to the trolley.

I’ll just have to remember, when the urge to plow into a project consumes me, the lesson I learned on that historic mountain.

Don’t run.


Living life in the long term

I’ve done a lot of restructuring in my life in the past several days. Obviously, my blog template has changed. I’ve shifted from my dated, tables-based layout to a CSS layout with an external stylesheet and content elements pulled in via PHP. It’s a change I’ve wanted to make since 2004, and I’ll be documenting the process in a later post.

While I was at it, I went ahead and changed a few other things. I gave up on Google Reader, for one. I’d always felt like I should be using it, since so many others sing its praises, and awhile back I made the switch. However, I was never happy with the way Reader’s blogroll functionality worked. I shifted back primarily because that would allow me to use Bloglines’ nice, organized blogroll again. But then I actually went to view my feeds in Bloglines…and something amazing happened.

I started reading.

When that happened I realized that I hadn’t been reading for a very long time.

Oh, here and there I’d read a blog post in Google Reader. But mostly I’d skim the headlines and mark things as read to get them out of my sight. And I had stopped reading news completely.

Something about being in Bloglines again, seeing my feeds organized in the nice folders I’d made, gave me fresh energy. I felt comfortable, yet energized.

I read.

I read blogs. I read news. I looked at photos and paintings. I began to reconnect with my intellectual side. I’d felt vaguely that it had been absent, but up until I was actually absorbing and analyzing new information, I hadn’t fully comprehended the depths of my recent superficiality.

One apparent cause behind my slow slip into mindlessness was my choice to abandon my familiar tool, Bloglines. At work the next day, I suddenly recognized another cause.

I haven’t been pacing myself.

I’ve always had the problem of throwing myself 100% at whatever I’m doing, finishing up quickly and spectacularly. This works for some projects, like a piece of writing, or an infrequent chore. Applying this overenthusiasm to things like exercise and daily work does get a lot accomplished in the short term, but ultimately it leaves me tired, frustrated, burned out, trapped.

I realized that if I want to improve myself, I have to slow down and give myself the gifts of time and energy. I can’t leave work tired, brainless, unable to do much of anything besides zonk out in front of the TV. There’s no room in a life like that for my personal projects: reading, writing, photography, building ideas, getting healthy. There’s no enjoyment in a life like that.

I have to start looking at the things I need to accomplish, all of them, including work, in the long term. I have to step back and evaluate priorities, and string them out along a timeline in a reasonable manner–a manner that gives me some breathing room.

I’ve been reading more, writing more, and thinking more lately. I’ve also been happy. It’s not the euphoria that leads to a depressive crash, either. It’s a general sense of wellness, of purpose. It’s the desire to better myself, and the confidence that I can do it.

This is how I want to continue living.



My mother-in-law had a back injury when she was in her late teens/early 20s that has caused problems for her ever since. Things have gotten progressively worse for her over the years. She has had multiple neck and back surgeries. As it stands now, she is in so much pain that she can’t sleep. There is no comfortable position. She can barely go anywhere. Just getting ready to leave exhausts her. Her hands continually shake.

She underwent physical therapy for months, including traction, massage, the application of heat and cold, and electrostimulation. She says these things weren’t much help at all. What does help are shots administered by a pain specialist, but either they are done inaccurately (without the use of X-ray) or accurately with the risk of blood clots. And the shots are very expensive. In her condition she can’t work.

Her doctors refuse to prescribe pain medicine any stronger than Tylenol, for fear of addiction.

She saw her neurologist this week and got the strong impression that there’s nothing more that can be done for her.

This is wrong. No one should have to live like this.

I don’t know what to do or how to help.

Diary Health

I hate this

I’ve fallen out of all my good habits. It only took a couple of weeks to destroy several months’ work. I’m not exercising much at all and I’m eating crap. I feel like I’m stuck in a cycle of unhealthiness and depression. Whenever I try to start fresh, whether using Weight Watchers or something else, I find myself slipping up almost immediately.

I hate this.