Friday, July 30, 2010

Saving For a Rainy Day

Just before I laid down on the massage table yesterday, I noticed my left quad and how defined it has gotten the last few weeks. How hard it is. Strong. While I’m not a fan of doing straight-leg lifts with a 5-pound weight strapped to my ankle, doing them really isn’t that bad. Tough, yes. But not hard.

In fact, this whole recovery, while slower than I expected, is physically much easier than I expected. The only thing that hurts during PT is when my PT bends my knee further than it wants to go and he manipulates my scar to break up the scar tissue. (At least today I just yelped and didn’t cry. Usually I cry a little. Maybe even that part’s getting easier. Maybe.)

When my massage therapist started working on my left leg, she, too, noticed how strong my quad was.

“That didn’t take long,” she said. “It’s a good thing you worked out so much before.”

She’s right. Getting fit was like opening a savings account. My body had enough muscle stored up that I could make a withdrawal for major surgery and a 3+-month recovery period and still have enough muscle mass to spare.

My only complaint (and it’s not really a complaint, just a minor grievance) is that while the scale number hasn’t changed since surgery five weeks ago, my weight has shifted and distributed itself in places I’m not happy about (like around my middle…I’m SUCH an apple). But I still have plenty ‘o muscle and determination left in reserve, so when I’m finally back in full workout mode I’ll put all those parts back where they belong.

Buh-bye puppy belly.

I look forward to the challenge, especially with an improved knee. Where will it take me? How far will I go? I can’t wait to find out!

In the meantime, I walk at 1.7 mph on a treadmill in a tank of water (that's obviously not me in the tank, but the other person is on my PT assistants. Hi, Jill!). I ride a stationary bike with the seat jacked up so the soles of my feet aren’t quite flush with the pedal because I’m at a 100- to 105-degree bend in the left knee. I take stairs one at a time and use my cane when I’m not at home.

Living on my fitness savings, I can drive alone and cook dinner and wash dishes and water the gardens and fill bird feeders.

Looky what else I can do:
I’ve accepted that the work the surgeon did on my knee was major and that I need to be patient with this recovery. But while I may not be as far along as I’d “planned” to be pre-surgery, I’m further along than I would have been at 300 pounds, if a full recovery would have even been possible.

By opening that savings account five years ago, I’ve been able to withdraw not only physical prowess, but confidence, too. I know with all certainty now that I CAN recover from major surgery and maintain my weight. And the best part is that I’ve not drained my account. There’s more than enough still in there to sustain me for the duration of my recovery.

It’s thinking about this savings account that keeps me sane through those teeth-gritting knee bends with my PT. It’s the pain that is helping to heal me so I can build up my savings again, perhaps even surpass the previous balance.

So how’s the balance in your own fitness savings account? Do you have enough saved for a rainy day?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Me At Any Weight

Digging through my purse has been a favorite pastime of Claire’s since she was six months old. She’d find my compact, open it, and scrape at the powder. Shake the Tic Tacs. Chew on my phone.

What she liked most was to rearrange my wallet. She’d take out the debit cards and the American Express card and the AAA card and the insurance card and the various Hallmark/Dicks/Staples/Giant Eagle store cards and then put them back, usually cramming them into one slot.

Claire hasn’t been through my purse in awhile, although Luca has a time or two. Today, though, she wanted to rummage through it. When she dug out my wallet, she found my driver’s license and said, “That’s you, Grammy!”

What she didn’t know was that behind my current driver’s license was my license from six years ago. I took it out and showed it to her.
“Who’s that person, Grammy?” she asked.

“That was Grammy a long time ago,” I said.

She stared at me for a second, like I’d gone completely nuts.

“No,” she finally said. “That’s not you.”

Some day it will make sense to her. Some day she’ll see photos of me at 300 pounds and recognize her Grammy. Somewhere in my eyes, I suspect. Or my smile.

Within those before photos is a vague yet important resemblance to the me of today. There is energy within them. The spark of a woman who worked hard, dreamed, loved her kids, and was a good person. Claire will see that one day, I’m sure of it.

While it’s often hard to reconcile before and after photos, the only real difference is weight. The real me is always there. Yes, I’ve grown as a person; matured and learned a lot about nutrition and me and why I eat and all that, but deep down – at my very core – I am me at any weight.


Here are a few more photos from my amazing day with the grandbabies. It was my first solo trip to Pittsburgh in more than five weeks. While I’ve seen Claire and Luca in that time, this was our first real back-to-normal visit. We all needed it.
Playing with Grammy's cane
Luca and me in a self portrait
Me with my Claire Bear
Luca wearing his lunch

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tweaking Recipes

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a recipe. With so many awesome food blogs out there I don’t have much to contribute. But once in awhile I make something that makes me so happy I need to share, and tonight, it’s Portobello Spinach Frittata.

The original recipe is from Taste of Home magazine, but I’ve modified it so much that – to use a hair metaphor – mine looks more like a curly blond than a straight-haired brunette. But still, kudos to TOH (one of my favorite recipe sites). I’d not have made this without the original.

Portobello Spinach Frittata

1 C Egg Beaters
¾ C low-fat ricotta cheese
½ C grated Parmesan cheese
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
¼ t pepper
4 green onions, sliced
1-2 C sliced mushrooms (portobello or just plain white ones)
1 C shredded zucchini
Fresh basil or other spices you like in eggs

In a large frying pan coated with cooking spray, sauté the mushrooms and zucchini (with a little garlic, if you’d like) until they are soft and there’s no more liquid left in the pan.

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Add the cooked mushrooms and zucchini and basil or other spices. Mix well. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

This makes 4-6 servings. Two in my house some nights. If you’re counting Points, it’s 4 for 4 servings made this way.

Here’s what the process looks like:
Do I look tired? Because I am.
My knee and cane waiting.
The finished product. (Forgot to take a photo when it came out of the oven.)

Remember, recipes aren’t sacred! If you don’t follow them to a T it’s not like you’ll go to hell or anything. How do you tweak your favorite recipes to suit you and your taste/dietary wants and needs? Do you look at a recipe and know you can make it healthier or better?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blogger, Heal Thyself

“Though it’s oh so nice to get advice, it’s oh so hard to do.” Joe Jackson (the singer, not MJ’s father)

I don’t know how you guys do it, but one of you always manages to ask me a question I seem to be struggling with myself, although I don’t always know it at the time. Great minds fixate alike.

When people ask me a question, they’re seeking advice or some piece of wisdom I can pass on from my own experience. However, it’s one thing to give advice and another to take it, especially when the advice you’re giving is the advice you need to heed. But if we really believe in what we’re advising, then it’s not as hard to turn the mirror around and look honestly at the issue. At least this was true for me this morning when K wrote with this question:

“What I struggle with most is eating what I really shouldn’t. For instance, today I did so good at work, but I came home and ate junk. Why can’t I just reach for all the good things in my fridge when I feel like that? Honestly, I was really tired and could have used a nap, but I reached for the food.”

At first it seemed a straight up question, one I’ve answered before.

“K, it sounds to me like you need a time out – a few minutes is all – between deciding to eat and eating. Ask yourself EVERY TIME: ‘Why am I wanting/needing/reaching for this food?’ Then write down your answer in a notebook.

“If you're hungry, eat. If not, deal with the feeling. Go for a quick walk, nothing fancy. It’s about thinking first, eating later. At least that’s what I've come to know.”

Then it hit me: I’ve been wanting to do exactly what K has been doing all week – eat when I’m not hungry and/or eat inappropriately – and I hadn’t given thought as to why. I’ve just been running on autopilot, eating (mostly) on plan and allowing my desire to eat run amok in my fuzzy, unfocused brain. Thank goodness for K because in replying, I woke up and realized just how much I’d been obsessing.

“I’m going to physical therapy in a few minutes. I’ve eaten breakfast, my body is satisfied, and yet I want to EAT because I’m nervous. Usually stress makes me not want to eat, but anticipating physical pain makes me want to soothe with food. I didn’t see this before, but now that I know, I will deal with the feeling. I’m afraid of the upcoming pain, but food will NOT solve that. Only a complete understanding and acceptance of the fear can help this situation.

“You (we) CAN do this. It’s a matter of retraining your brain and always, ALWAYS keeping your best interests in the forefront of every food decision you make. Also, just as you care enough to ask WHY you want to eat at a particular moment, care enough to feed your body the right foods. It all comes down to loving YOU.”

Recognizing that food has been a bigger issue for me this week than I realized helped me zero in on the emotion behind the desire to eat. Now that I get it, I can deal with it. What I can’t deal with is living in a food fog.

Ah, the crazy relationship(s) we have with food. DietGirl Shauna (Hi, chicka!) posted a link to this tongue-in-cheek essay from The Onion, “Fill Your Own Goddamn Emotional Void.” Because it’s from The Onion there’s a little profanity, but it’s a hilarious essay from the point of view of Food to the food obsessed.

I’d also like to dedicate the before-quoted Joe Jackson song, “Breaking Us In Two,” to Food, particularly this stanza:
Could we be much closer if we tried
We could stay at home and stare
Into each other's eyes
Maybe we could last an hour
Maybe then we'd see right through
Always something breaking us in two

Watching the video this morning while answering K kept me away from the fridge long enough to focus. Thanks, Joe!

UPDATE from yesterday’s blog:

Things are looking up. PT is going well. Agoraphobia remains at bay. And I’m looking forward to this weekend and a visit from my dear WW online friend, CrispyRice, the same Crispy who visited me in the hospital. My normal life is slowly returning. Patience, patience.

Thank you, Tish, for the Shakespeare quote. My g-babies do make me very happy. And Jane, I understood (and related to) everything you wrote in your comment. I, too, found agoraphobia and anxiety embarrassing to admit having. I hope in writing your comment you found some peace with your past. Thank you so much for your support.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Wednesday’s Morning

I wake up and “Judy Blue Eyes” is playing in my head, probably because I think it’s Tuesday. But it’s Wednesday. Two days closer to the weekend. I hate weekends.

It’s so humid you can uncork wine bottles with my hair. The air is stacked in layers, like slabs of wood at a lumber yard. It feels like jelly on my skin. The breeze from the window fan rolls the wet air around like a lead ball. I get up and limp to the bathroom.

I look in the mirror. Another zit. I turn on the water to wash my face and I reach for a towel. It’s still damp from Tuesday’s shower. I use it anyway and place it on the railing below the window and straighten it fully. I look up. A fly bangs against the screen and a chipmunk sits in the lilac bush. My knee feels as dense as the air. I place the crutch under my right arm, walk toward the kitchen, and step in dog shit in the living room.

It’s 7:30.

My second out-patient physical therapy appointment is at 10:30. Tuesday’s appointment was as much fun as stepping in dog poop, so my expectations are low. But somewhere in my brain’s humid haze, I know my destiny isn’t in the hands of the gods. Nothing stays the same.

I put on some makeup and pay attention to my hair. It lifts my spirits. I know (and preach) that real change comes from the inside out, but sometimes mascara is a bridge to sanity. A different song plays in my head: “Whatever gets you through your life, ‘salright, ‘salright…”

I am in the car driving east on I-80 when my shoulders tighten and I remember the agoraphobic, near-panic attack I had driving I-80 the day before. It was nearly identical to the one I had in 1986 on the on-ramp to 169N off 376E in Minneapolis. I made it home, but I was immobilized by fear and didn’t drive for a year.

Not driving for a year now isn’t an option. Agoraphobia will not happen today. I have strategies. Exercises. Still, I’m pissed that I have to breathe this way and talk my body into calm, that this stupid disorder chose to surface like cicadas after years underground.

The cruise control is set at 68 mph. Semis are passing me on the left. I feel the panic rise. I can pull over and cry and call AAA to tow me home or suck it up and keep my mind calm.

I choose calm and the change begins.

The wave of dread, frustration and disorder recedes the moment my PT puts me in the “tank” and I walk on a treadmill in water. I’m not breaking any land speed records, but I walk, untethered to a crutch and not limping. I feel free for the first time in a month.

I walk outside with a new cane and toss the crutch in the back seat. The air is still thick, but I am hopeful. Who knows? Maybe even the weekend won’t be so bad.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy 5th Blogging Anniversary to Me!

Five years ago this month, I launched my website, Lynn’s Weight-Loss Journey. It all began on this page: 2005 Jan-July.

I had no idea that I’d still be blogging, let alone in maintenance for more than three years, when I first posted that page. I was scared to death, sure that the Internet would blow up because I revealed for the first time how much I weighed. Until then, no one but my doctor and me knew.

But blogging and the incredible web of support it created has been my lifeline to weight loss and maintenance.

I looked through the old website today and found the following entry from February 2008. I thought since many of you are new to my blog, I’d share this post which answers a few of the questions I still get about weight loss. Keep in mind this was written more than two years ago and I’ve since gone completely vegetarian. I’m also more secure in maintenance and not as worried about a pound or two on the scale. I know how to kick those bad boys to the curb.

So my question for you today is, where do you envision yourself in five years?

Maintaining Focus, Staying Motivated

The sun is finally shining here in western Pennsylvania. I’m more aware this year than in past years just how big a role the weather plays in regards to my moods and therefore my food choices. When the sun is shining, I want to be healthy and eat right and all that good stuff. When it’s cloudy, I tend to vacillate toward “comfort food.” This doesn’t mean I always give in or make poor choices. It’s just something I’ve learned to recognize.

This ties into what I’ve been saying about weight loss and maintenance being a mental thing more than a physical thing. The more we’re in tune with our inner voice and motivation, the better prepared we are when the cloudy days come around. Keeping separate food and emotional journals help me recognize when I’m feeling a certain way and wanting to respond to that feeling in an old manner, like eating pizza with abandon or stuffing down a handful of animal crackers.

I thought I’d address a few more of your questions, particularly as they pertain to the mind-food connection.

1. I'd like your opinion on how you dealt with the problem of maintaining focus on weight loss while not having it become the central aspect of your life.

I firmly believe that once you make a commitment to losing weight and maintaining it, you adopt a lifestyle you will live with the rest of your life. So weight loss (and now maintenance) ARE the central aspects of my life, along with my family, my career, and all the other important things I live for. I love myself and so I treat my body with respect, just as I love my husband and kids and treat them with respect, too. It’s second nature, so it’s not like I think about my weight 24/7. I’ve incorporated it into my daily life. It doesn’t mean I don’t get upset with or disappointed in my body, just as I get upset with or disappointed with my family and career. The key to dealing with these emotions is in my behavior.

2. Did you start eating clean right away or was it a slow process?

I love this question because it really took me back three years to when I first started Weight Watchers. I remember I adapted several of my favorite recipes to be more “Points” friendly. I ate mostly the foods I’d eaten before, but I learned portion control. I dusted off my measuring spoons and cups and food scale to make sure I didn’t over- or under-do the portion.

As I learned more about nutrition and started losing Points (meaning I was eating less food every day), I wanted more “bang” for my calorie/point “buck” and began eating more vegetables and whole grains. Slowly I eliminated processed foods (no frozen dinners, 100-calorie packs, things like that) and incorporated some soy into my diet (soy milk, soy burgers, a little soy cheese). I stopped drinking milk because I hate milk and I was tired of forcing myself to eat something I hated. I get calcium through vegetables, yogurt and other more reliable sources than dairy milk.

So yes, it was and still is a process. I’m still adopting a completely vegetarian diet. I had ahi tuna the other night, but otherwise I stick to the “superfoods” (sans the meat). I eat a big salad once a day and load it up with greens, carrots, tomatoes, cheese and something crunchy like crackers or a few nuts (I still love crackers; I just make sure they’re whole grain now and not Cheez-Its J). I limit myself to two fruits a day and one (occasionally two) servings of complex carbs like potatoes, rice, pasta, that sort of thing.

3. How were you able to stay motivated from day one of your weight loss journey? How do you continue to motivate yourself?

I was motivated from day one because I wanted to be thin again. But “thin” to me was getting back to 165 or so. I never dreamed I’d get to the 120s.

I stayed motivated based solely on that premise: to be “thin” again. There were days when I had to do extra journaling and reminding myself of that premise, though. Sometimes I’d eat too much and proceed to emotionally beat myself up. Still do sometimes. But I always went back to my journals and photos of me at 165 or so and remembered, “Ah, THAT’S what I want again.”

I stay motivated now by enjoying how I feel at this weight. I need to confess, though, that losing weight was easier than maintaining, at least emotionally. I’m still working through the “nerves,” such as “Oh no! What if I gain a pound or two! What will I do?? Horror of horrors!” Clearly I have issues to work through. Maintenance is, after all, a journey and not “the end.”

Bottom line, you need to find one or two things that personally motivate you. Don’t lose weight for an event or for someone else or because your doctor says you have to. Find what it is inside YOU that wants to lose weight and let THAT be your motivator.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wiggle Your Toes and Breathe

Tomorrow I have my first post-op appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Goodman – a somewhat ironic name considering he cuts people open for a living. He told me before I left the hospital, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted my knee bending 90 degrees when he saw me again.

One way I’m making that happen is spending up to 4 hours a day in a continuous passive motion machine or CPM. I took this very non-professional clip of me in the machine this morning (and please remember, IT WAS MORNING. Ignore hair and glasses, please):
I was at 85 degrees and said (if you couldn’t hear it) I was going for 90 at some point today. That point came much faster than I anticipated. Feeling cocky shortly after I shot that clip, I cranked the machine (and survived) to 90 degrees:
I was pretty psyched.

Knee surgery, and its subsequent recovery and rehab, has been the most physically painful and challenging experience I’ve been through. I say this not as a complaint. If anything, it’s been a gift. Not an under-the-Christmas-tree kind of gift, but one, I suspect, that will sustain me longer than new socks and underwear.

One of my favorite meditation teachers is Tara Brach.  Although I’ve never met her, I listen to her weekly talks via her podcast. This week’s talk was especially interesting considering I just finished reading “Women, Food and God.”

Called “The Power of the Mind,” Brach’s talk focused on how to choose to be wholeheartedly and sincerely present. Although I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation for nearly four years, staying present still (and probably always will) takes effort since my thoughts often live in the past, the future, and in fantasy – that “If only…” thinking that takes me into never-to-be scenarios in which all is good and perfect and painless.

One of my “If only…” thoughts the last three weeks has been, “If only I hadn’t been obese, I wouldn’t be recovering from knee surgery now.” Then I snap back to the present and remember that obesity merely speeded up the inevitable, which was that my knee would need some kind of repair because it was messed up due to genetics, not obesity.

Wanting to be anywhere but the moment is most prevalent (no surprise here) when I’m in the most pain, especially during rehab exercises.

When I have to bend my knee, or more specifically, when the physical therapist bends my knee, I get tense and forget to breath. PT always tells me, “Wiggle your toes!” Now she’s a really nice woman and all, but in that moment I want to scream at her, “I don’t WANT to wiggle my toes! I want to be as far away from my toes and knees and this god-awful pain as I can: in Iowa, the bathroom, watching The Daily Show, digging a splinter out of my toe…ANYTHING other than here with you bending my knee!”

But instead, I focus. I stay with the feeling of the awfulness of the moment, and then in the next moment, it recedes.

Kind of like everything in life, right? (Except we don’t always have a nice PT handing us a tissue afterwards and saying, “Good job!” LOL)

It’s not like every moment has special meaning or is memorable. Most aren’t, and that’s the point. We live in one moment and then the next one comes along. It’s how we respond in the moment that adds to or takes from our suffering. Sometimes all we can do – especially in those mind-numbing painful, hungry, fill-in-the-blank moments – is remain neutral, like Switzerland, and wiggle our toes and breathe, engaging wholeheartedly and sincerely in our lives.
Attention Firefox users:

Since changing the layout of my blog last month, many of you who use Firefox (and often Safari for Mac) as their Internet browser are unable to leave comments or utilize the search feature. I apologize for this inconvenience. I've tried to change the ways in which comments can be left, but there seems to be no solution on Bloggers end. The only solution seems to be this: “Enable third-party cookies. In Firefox, go to Tools, Options, and click Privacy. Then put a check in the box that says 'Accept third-party cookies'.”

I realize this is a privacy issue and I don't blame you if you don't want to change your settings just so you can leave a comment on my blog. Just know you always have the option of sending me an email at

Thanks for your patience with this. Hopefully Blogger will figure out a better solution soon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Cart, the Book and the Football Player

I remember in high school (when I weighed about 150 pounds) walking out of the cafeteria behind a cheerleader and her boyfriend. The cheerleader was a petite blond with large breasts and a small round butt. Her boyfriend was a football player who often picked her up in the lunchroom and threw her over his shoulders. I was behind the boyfriend who was behind the cheerleader when the boyfriend said loudly, “I’m making a sign for your ass that says, ‘Wide load.’” Then he beeped like he was backing up a truck and laughed. The cheerleader turned around and playfully hit his arm, but I was horrified for her. Then I was horrified for me. If he thought his girlfriend’s ass was fat, there was no hope for mine.

Fast forward to Saturday. I went grocery shopping at Wal-Mart for the first time since my surgery. Not that it was ever a goal or dream, but I was excited to use a motorized scooter. It looked like fun. After a few instructions I took off, my husband walking along side.

It was fun at first, albeit a bit jarring as I got used to starting and stopping without causing whiplash. Then I backed up and the cart beeped and a familiar feeling washed over me, the same thing I felt in the cafeteria that day in high school.

I read “Women, Food and God” this weekend. Some of what Geneen Roth wrote pertained to me and some of it didn’t, mostly because I am, for the most part, on the other side of experience than the person for whom the book was written. But what I did take from the book was that we all have former selves and former selves and former selves.

Throughout out lives we say goodbye to one way of looking at something and adopt a new view. Doesn’t mean every new perspective is healthy. (God knows I still cling to beliefs that don’t elevate me to any higher understanding). But learning to recognize our primal reactions – those formed long ago through repetitive or one-time experiences we might not even remember – we can break habitual patterns of thinking and doing. For me, the vivid memory of that moment in high school was the result of belief I accepted years ago that I’m not good enough, worthy enough or whole apart from other people’s approval.

The roots of this belief system are deep. But while I can’t erase my past, I can choose how I react to stimuli that act to cut me down. For awhile I felt a little sad riding on that cart – a little exposed, vulnerable, and subject to mercy from those around me who could walk and reach and not hear beeping noises when they backed up their carts. But that stinkin’ thinkin’ didn’t last long. I acknowledged my former self and even paid her a little homage, then acted in a way that no longer gave power what Roth calls “The Voice.”

Now, then, 150 pounds, 300 pounds, 130 pounds, I AM worthy and good enough and whole without the thoughts and opinions of others, namely the opinions of my inner critic. I happily finished my little ride around Wal-Mart, and sent up good energy to that football player, who I can only hope grew up.

Friday, July 9, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

I wrote my last post, “It’s The Not Knowing,” just before my first in-home physical therapy appointment. I was a LOT nervous about what kind of pain it would entail. I took a pain killer and hoped for the best.

And the best is what I got, despite the pain. In fact, it was because of the pain that two days later I’m moving more fluidly than I have in two weeks, and it’s through pain that I continue to improve.

Here’s what happened Wednesday. While I had progressed to a 55-degree bend in my knee through the use of the continuous passive motion machine, my physical therapist forced my knee to bend to 65 degrees. For about 60 seconds I thought I was going to die or at the very least pass out, but that bend said to my knee, “Enough! No more babying you!”

The progression I’ve made in just 48 hours is amazing. Not only am I off the narcotic, but I’ve gone from sweating through four assisted leg lifts to doing 20 all by myself. On Wednesday, my PT assessed my walking and said I was not bending it enough or putting enough weight on it. Today, I washed AND dried AND put away dishes, all the while keeping equal weight on both legs.

Wednesday I was riding in the back seat of my car. Today, I was in the passenger’s seat. Next week, I’m gonna be at the helm, baby!

My PT said to not be afraid, to let my knee do what it was designed to do. ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘That’s good advice for most everything in life.’

If we’re willing to go through pain rather than around it, the problem is solved much faster and with more permanency. This has been true in my life for grief (after dancing around that bad boy for nearly 20 years), relationships, and weight loss, and yet it’s a lesson I’m always learning. It’s hard to give up, give in, go through, face, or shake hands with pain and follow its uncertain and circuitous path, but think about it. When was the last time you accomplished anything significant without taking that first step into the uncomfortable?

It’s counterintuitive to inflict pain on ourselves, but sometimes it is through pain that we find relief or attain our goals. Because of the painful exercises, I can make tea by myself. Because I force my knee to bend further than it wants to, I can take a shower alone (or at least now I have the choice…wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Without pain, I’d be further from normal, more dependent, and more frightened of the unknown. This doesn’t mean I’m without fear or doubts or worry. I don’t look forward to these painful experiences. But living in the light of their redemption is worth every wince, outcry and tear. Every single one.

I’m going to get better, dammit, and I’m going to do it the same way I lost weight, faced grief, and dumped a painful relationship (or three): by not taking shortcuts and accepting the status quo. I’d do well to do this in all aspects of my life, but for now, I’ll just work on the knee.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It’s The Not Knowing

I’m up a little early, nervously anticipating my first physical therapy session later this morning.

“You’ll want to take your paid meds before she arrives,” warned my in-home nurse last week.


It’s the not knowing that gets most of us at some point in our lives. A new job, losing a job, getting married, getting divorced, having a baby, sending that baby off to college, surgery, getting old. What will it feel like? How will we handle it? The answer is, we don’t know, we CAN’T know – even after hearing from or reading about people who’ve been there and done that – how it will be until it is.

I get a lot of email from people asking me what their lives will be like after losing more than 100 pounds. What will their skin look like? Will people recognize them? Will they be able to maintain? All I can say is, “Try it and see.”

Rather than worry about skin or life at goal, see what happens – one, two, five pounds at a time – to your energy level. See what happens to your cholesterol and blood pressure. See what happens to your joints. See what happens in these smaller increments of weight loss to the way you feel about yourself.

You gotta do the trying before you do the seeing.

And on this particular day in my life, I’m trying physical therapy.

While I’m not approaching it in the same way I approached weight loss (I didn’t lose my appetite, sleep or tips of my nails before starting my weight loss journey), they are similar in many ways. Namely, I know it will be difficult and I know it’s totally up to me how successful I am. I also promised myself, as I did before I lost my first pound, to give it everything I’ve got. No excuses.

Still, it’s the not knowing that gets me every time. To help ebb that tide of worry a little, I’m lying in bed and writing this blog and preparing my mind for the trying. I’m listening to the birds at the feeder, feeling the air from the window fan blow across my feet, and assuring myself that in a few hours I’ll know.

And I can handle anything once I know what I’m facing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Righting Myself (and reviving the giveaway!)

This is what I feel like at this point in my recovery.
That’s Luca trying to right himself after falling out of the sandbox on Saturday. (Notice Claire doesn’t care.) He wasn’t crying (at first), just struggling. Since his center of gravity is right at his diaper, the poor little guy spun around like he was in a snow saucer or was a turtle on his back.

When his mama finally set him straight, he ate sand.
I’m tying to right myself since surgery 12 days ago. Things are feeling better and moving better, but I still need gobs of assistance and that’s getting a little old. I know, I know. I have to be patient. Each day gets a little easier. But sometimes – like when I see someone riding a bike or kneeling in their garden – I want to fast forward to mid-August when I (fingers crossed) will be free from crutches and able to hike and canoe on our weekend “camping” trip with the g-babies. (We’re hardly roughing it. We rented a cabin in Cook Forest. But Claire likes to call it “camping.”)

I don’t want to wish time away. Not really. You know how I’m always trying to stay present and be mindful of each moment? There’s nothing like getting around on crutches to keep a person mindful. Of dogs and rugs and steps and the dark. This is one time I’m grateful I have a small kitchen because I can stand in the middle and move things from the long counter by the stove to the counter by the sink. I can take things out of the fridge and place them on the long counter just by turning around a little. Although I miss the fluidity of my pre-surgical body and the unconscious way I walked up stairs or got in the car, this lesson in mindfulness – since it’s here, although I could choose to ignore it – is a good thing.

It was fun to see the g-babies on Saturday. It gave Claire and me a chance to compare bumps and boo-boos. I was a little apprehensive to show her my incision and offered to cover it up, but my daughter said Claire would be fine with it. And she was. In fact, my incision failed to excite or scare her in any way, and it didn’t hold a candle to the “big BIG” boo-boo on her ankle – the tiniest, minutest scratch ever, but important enough for her to declare it, and not my 6-inch incision, the boo-boo of the day.

Along with grandbabies, it was also a weekend of experimentation.

Sitting around so much (and lacking any padding) is causing pain in my tailbone area. So I Goggled something like “coccyx pain” or “donut pillow” (is there anything you can’t Google these days?) and found a spiffy home remedy site that for the life of me I can’t find again to give you its link. Anyway, instead of buying a fancy donut pillow, it recommended buying a pool noodle for $2 and making one yourself. Larry went to Wal-Mart and picked up a noodle and duct tape, fashioned it to the right bend for my body, I threw a pillow on top, and by golly, it works like a charm! No more pain. Well, there at least.
Larry made a solo run to Trader Joe’s on Saturday, and I don’t know why, but I had a hankerin’ for Belgian endive. He brought home three of the prettiest little endives, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with them. I’m not up to cooking at the stovetop yet, so I Googled “grilled endive” and I found a million recipes. I opted for simple, cutting them in half and rubbing them with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Because of the whole I-can’t-cook-right-now thing, I was afraid the bunch of leeks in the refrigerator would go bad soon, so I Googled “grilled leeks” and found a recipe for them, too. I used a little red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh basil and garlic and rubbed it into the cut (and clean) folds of two sliced leeks. Larry grilled the endive and the leeks for a few minutes on each side and they turned out fabulously!
We met our match Sunday with the veggie skewers. They turned out charred, dry and overall yucky. Was it using bamboo vs. metal skewers? Not enough marinade? Was the grill too hot?

We moved on, a little reluctantly and definitely humbled, to the fruit. We grilled pineapple, mango and banana chunks using metal skewers, marinated first in pineapple juice, brown sugar and a little nutmeg (the fruit, not the skewers). These turned out very nicely. Very tasty. The bananas tasted like little bites of warm banana bread and the pineapples mellowed from tart to mostly sweet.

Come today, the family has gone home. The house is quiet. And the task of righting myself continues. Like finding new ways to cook food, I’m finding new things I can do rather than dwell on the things I can’t. For instance, I can’t carry a bottle of water or an ice pack with my hands, but I can put them in a shopping bag and tie it to my crutch. Ingenious!

And just because I can’t do these videos right now, it doesn’t mean YOU can’t! Getting back to my giveaway of things that have helped me along my weight loss and maintenance path, this week I thought I’d offer two Denise Austin DVDs: “Shrink Your Female Fat Zones” and “Get Fit Fast: 3 Target Programs – Abs, Arms & Shoulders, Legs & Buns.”
Leave a comment or send an email to to throw your name in the hats for one of these two DVDs. If there’s one you’d rather win over the other, let me know, otherwise I’ll put your name in to both hats. Remember, all I ask in return is that you either give the DVD to someone else when you’re done, or keep it and donate a food item to your local food shelf.

I’ll draw a winner on Friday, July 9.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What I Expected VS What Actually Happened

One of many lessons I’ve learned or have been reminded of 9 days post-op is that I can’t predict the future. I can plan for, anticipate, and make educated guesses, but often what I expect and what actually happens are two different things. WAY different in some cases. But one thing – the love of a good friend – turned out exactly the way I expected.

For instance:

What I expected: I’d be doomed to weeks of sponge baths and washing my hair in the kitchen sink.

What actually happened: I was allowed to shower five days after surgery.

What I expected: To be wrapped in swaths of gauze for a month, and only a professional could change what I was sure would be bloody bandages.

What actually happened: Two days after surgery, my doctor cut off the ace bandage, and underneath was simply a long thin bandage covering the incision. I changed the bandage two more times when I got home, but have been dressing-free since Monday.

What I expected: For my incision to match the beaut of a scar on the other knee.

What actually happened: Surgical glue. As of this morning, more than half of the wound is completely healed over.
What I expected: To experience some pain the first few days, but to be driving around in a Wal-Mart cart within a week.

What actually happened: 9 days later I still can’t stand for longer than 10 minutes, and I have no desire to go anywhere. While I’m dealing with the pain and exhaustion, the degree to which I feel both surprised me. Like my daughter said the other day, “How do people in their 80s and 90s recover if someone like you is huffing and puffing just going back and forth to the bathroom?” Good question.

What I expected: To live in shorts and t-shirts and be completely unfettered from snaps, buttons, hooks and ties.

What actually happened: The weather turned chilly (although 90 is forecast for Sunday, thank goodness), so I was back to long sleeves, sweatshirts, and sweats. I also feel lost without a bra. So much for unfettered.

What I expected: To take a break from makeup.

What actually happened: No one other than my husband, daughter and in-home nurse and physical therapist have seen me, but feeling my best emotionally is helping me feel better physically. Makeup is a non-toxic, feel-good drug.

What I expected: “I’m in great shape, so physical therapy will be easy.”

What actually happened: Much sobbing and swearing. If you EVER have knee surgery, do NOT ignore the advice, “You might want to take your pain meds an hour before PT.” In fact, you might want to take a little extra. Holy. Cow. I’m not kidding.

What I expected (or actually, in this case, what I didn’t realize): All bodily functions would return to normal once I got home.

What actually happened: I’ve taken enough Dulcolax and Milk of Magnesia to keep an entire nursing home regular for a month.

What I expected: Lots of time to watch movies and read books.

What actually happened: I’ve watched a few movies and have started one book, but much of my time is spent getting from my bed to the bathroom, my bed to the kitchen, my bed to the porch…I also do a lot of staring into space. Oxycodone. Yuck.

What I expected: To heal up in a few weeks and have my doctor evaluate my right knee for possible debridment or total knee replacement before the birth of my third grandbaby in February.

What (will) actually happen: NO WAY! I’m very glad I didn’t know how much this left knee debridement would hurt because I probably wouldn’t have done it even though I really needed it. However, I’ll need time – several months if not a few years – before I can do this again. My right knee is hanging in there better than I thought it would, as are my shoulders and wrists. Once I’m healed up (which, I’ve accepted, may take three months), I’ll concentrate on getting my entire body back into its pre-surgical shape. There will be no talk of cutting Lynnie open again anytime soon.

I’ve received and am humbled by the generous support from my family, friends and neighbors, but there is one person who keeps me the most centered. My friend of 42 years, Teela.

I keep Teela’s photo tacked to the corkboard next to my bed to remind me what real courage is (here she is with her fabulous father, Hub, who when I was a kid I called my “daddy boyfriend”). In the last year, she’s had a mastectomy, hysterectomy, two other surgeries, countless radiation and chemo treatments, and a close call with liver cancer (which, thank god, turned out to be nothing more than a shadow on a film). Teela knows all about pain and fear.

She also knows about living. Teela’s always been a glass-half-full, vivacious person. She called me out of my shell many times when we were kids, and in many ways we’ve lived parallel lives. Love lives, anyway. It took her a few husbands before she found the right one, just like me, and we were pregnant at the same time. Just as I expected, Teela’s been with me (via the Internet) during my decision to have surgery and in these days afterwards, motivating me with every capped word and exclamation point and hilarious “Do you remember?” moments from our past. Here are a few photos of Teela and me from a long time ago. In many ways we’re still those little girls. Just what I expected and what actually happened.
Taken at our neighborhood 4th of July parade in 1970. Me, Teela, and my brother Matthew.
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