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Divided

“Well, opinions are like a**holes … everybody has one.” – Dirty Harry in The Dead Pool (1988)

This is pretty much where I am these days.

You can say we are a nation divided.  You can say that everyone but you is wrong.  You can say that you don’t understand what is happening to us.  But at the end of the day – the biggest issue – is that we all want our opinion to be right.

Life is complicated.  The issues that face us today are complicated.  We are often contradictory in how we react to issues  based on our preferences, our backgrounds, and our influences and changes that come with every day life.

I remember interviewing a former pastor of mine while writing a paper on the death penalty in college.   I asked him if he was for or against it.  He said that as a pastor he was against the taking of a life by an institution.  But as a father and as a husband, he may feel differently if the victim was one of his own.

That is the truest statement I have ever heard on a political issue.

We are shaped by the events and the people and the influencers that we surround ourselves with.   The truth is that we change our minds based on those same things.  The crosses we are currently using to bash each other around with may change in the future based on new influences.

Several times a day I find myself overcome with repulsion and disgust and agreement and joy and sadness and grief and a full range of human emotions just by reading my Facebook feed.  And that is just a small portion of the influence that others can have on me.

It makes me sad.  It colors my impressions of people I have known for many years.  People I love and respect.  And I have to work hard to not post opinions and throw more fuel on the fire.  I don’t always win that fight.  But I do try.

The saddest part is that I used to love a good debate.  But a good debate does not exist anymore.

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For the time being

I have been avoiding writing this as it is much easier to ignore what is happening than to address it.  But here we are:  I can’t sing.  Ever since this surgery and the subsequent endoscopies, I have been unable to since more than a few notes at a time…and when I do I am hoarse, uneven, with lots of breaks in my voice.   Whatever range I had seems to have gone away and I the sound is not akin to dying cats (with a vibrato that i can’t shake even when I want to).  Some notes are better than others – but overall, this is not me.

I am facing a second surgery – scheduled for March 1 – and then I am hoping that will be all for a very long while.  But in the meantime, I have been struggling with the loss of my voice.

For the uninitiated – and I apologize to all of the ones who have to hear me tread over this old material again – singing has been my THING for as long as I can remember.  It for the longest time was my life’s ambition and the only thing I thought I was good at.  So for me to lose this part of myself – even temporarily is like having an essential part of my being gone.  I don’t know who I am without it some days.

I understand this may be temporary.  And I will look into getting back into lessons once I get married and move.  Maybe I am just severely out of practice and need to let everything heal a bit more.  But I have had to face the possibility that it may not come back.

I used to say, I didn’t want to live without being able to sing.  Some days I still feel that way.  It is hard to explain to someone who is not me or has not witnessed what this gift has meant to me my entire life.

I pray every day that if God means for me to continue singing he will provide the way for that to happen.  For now, I will be over here humming.

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Food Right Now

The past month has not been easy.  But, as I sit very close to having lost 100 lbs since October, I have little reason to really complain.  These setbacks are not as bad as some I have read about recently.  And really, considering how bad my health was, this has all been a blessing overall.

Saying that, there are things I miss more than I hoped I would.  If you put these things in front of me, I could not eat them and I would not eat them.  But the thought of them gets me sometimes.   Mostly it is carbs like bread.  I miss bread so much.  I know eventually I will be allowed to have it again, but right now, I miss bread.

I am lucky in that there are not many things I have missed.  Not really at least.  I have to be so careful right now and I can’t handle too much anyway.  But, food used to be easy (too easy apparently) and now it is not.  And while that is ok, it makes me wish I didn’t have to think so hard about it.

In the meantime, I keep trying new recipes and finding new combinations that I really love.  Currently I have Chicken Parm meatballs and a beef roast with pepper and onion (like a Philly Cheesesteak).  All bariatric friendly, all low fat, low sodium, and low calorie.  And I am eating them with veggies and fruit.  Hard to complain right now.

The weight loss is slowing down now that I am starting to eat again.  Its good.  Still losing about 5 lbs a week right now.  Again, no complaints.

Thank you to everyone for their love and support right now.  I can’t wait to catch up with you all again soon.

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Medical Updates…

As I have been posting on Facebook, not all is well in Michelle-land.  About a week and a half ago, I started noticing that I could not eat all of the 2oz of food I am allowed at any given time.  And it was harder and harder to take all of the vitamins I need to take each day.  And then last weekend, I started to feel nauseous.  I was seriously worried cause I made a mistake and went to the internet for help.  (And just to be clear it was not WebMD – but a bariatric chat site where it was other patients I was talking to)

When the nausea had not passed after the weekend, and after taking anti-nausea pills, I reached out to my Nutritionist and she told me to cut my meals in half to 1 oz and keep taking the anti-nausea pills.  But by Wednesday, I was just nauseous all the time and I was not eating at all.  On Thursday, I couldn’t take it anymore and called the office.  Once they asked me a bunch of questions, they wanted me to come in on Friday.  And so off to my mom’s I went.

I met with a very nice Nurse Practitioner and she asked me a bunch of questions trying to narrow down how this happened and she said that basically there were 3 possible things happening.  Gastroenteritis – an irritation of the stomach lining was the easiest.  She told me to go back on the meds they gave me for acid reflux and that would start to help that (which I needed to go back on soon anyway).  The second possible was ulcers.  And finally, the third is a “stricture” – a tightening of the tube between the stomach and the small bowel.  Food can have trouble passing through there once the hold gets smaller.

She had me lay on the table and started pressing on my abdomen to see if my stomach was tender – it was…slightly.  But then she pressed on my right side and I literally kicked my legs in the air – it was pretty painful.  She said that indicated there may also be something wrong with my gallbladder.

I have to go for an ultrasound this week and I have some new meds that she is hoping will help me eat again – even in small doses – and will help tell if this is a stricture or not.  Then I go back on Friday for my normal checkup and we will have another conversation at that time.

I am scared.  If it is a stricture, I have to have another endoscopy – not a big deal.  If my gallbladder needs to come out, it means ANOTHER surgery.  That I do not want.  I feel like I can’t quite catch a break here with this one, but I do not want to have another surgery so soon.  And honestly, I cried today about it.  Financially this will be difficult for me and emotionally it will be difficult.  I just can’t think about it right now.

So if you think about it, say a quick prayer that this is over soon.  And I will not need another surgery.

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Unnaturally Green

I have apparently been on a reading spree this weekend.  I finished 2 books entirely and have started a third.  In fact in the last week, I have read all of 4 books and started a new one.  Reading comes in fits and spurts at this point in my life.  When I read, I devour anything in front of me.  And then I don’t read for a while.  It works for me right now.

So one of the books I read this week, Unnaturally Green by Felicia Ricci, really hit me in a way that I didn’t expect.  The story is a memoir about her experience with being Elphaba (Wicked Witch of the West) in the musical Wicked – her first professional theater gig and how once she had the dream role, she started to question her choice of profession.

As many of you know, I once dreamed of Broadway and musical theater and ultimately didn’t go that route.  I don’t regret it as honestly, I could not have lived that life.  But a part of me will always regret that I didn’t try harder.  I didn’t stick my neck out a little for that dream.  And while I will always LOVE musical theater, in the end, my dad was right – it was a hobby that I sort of outgrew.

What is so interesting about this book to me is that I could see myself in Ms Ricci’s story.  Let me explain.

She auditioned for the role of an understudy to Elphaba.  That meant she would perform in the chorus of the show unless she was needed.  But as an understudy, you are technically the #3 Elphaba in the show.  She was then was “promoted” to Standby Elphaba.  That means she would literally sit backstage and do nothing during the show in case she was needed as Elphaba and was the #2.  Oh and by the way – her first night as a standby – she had to go on!

In total, she played Elphaba on stage 40 times before the show closed (this production was in San Francisco).  And each time she had terrible anxiety, questioned her own ability to sing what she calls the “Death Songs” – seriously you have to be a wizard to sing those 8 shows a week – and by the end, she questioned her commitment to this being her life.

And that is where I and Ms. Ricci found common ground.  I love to sing.  I can’t tell you how it feels to open my mouth and let go.  It is a form of expression that I can’t describe.  I feel the most “myself” when I am singing.  But it brings with it some side effects that I can’t let go of.  For the last 10 years, I get terrible stage fright when I have to sing by myself (I will say I feel “safe” in some places but they are few and far between).  I don’t have a lot of confidence when I sing most things (I know I can sing, but I doubt myself a LOT).  And the worst part for me, the part that has always been the hardest, is I can’t stand to hear people talking about it after – and I can’t bear to think that no one cared enough to talk about it.  It is a catch-22 I can’t get past.  All of these things made me question my commitment to singing years ago and my ability to do this as a profession.

This, in part, is why singing at the church became my main place to sing.  It was a “safe” place for me.  A place where on your worst day, someone would tell you that you sounded beautiful.  Where the smiling faces in the crowd were encouraging – not really just for you but because you were relaying a message to them they wanted to hear.  For me, it took the pressure off me as they didn’t care who sang it – they wanted the Word.  I love that about singing at church.  It is not about me.  It’s about Him.

The “it’s not about me” part is also what I love about Praise teams.  I am not the focus.  That is comforting to me.  Ironically, I don’t feel that way in choirs.  Not that it is about me there – but I don’t feel moved by the music as much and it is a lot of work for me to worry about blending (big mouth here has to really work at it), vowel pronunciation, cut offs and entrances, etc.  I have a lot of anxiety about choirs these days.

So here I am – in my final months in Orange – with a LOT on my plate over the next few months.  And I have to decide if I want to sing during this time.  And that is where Ms. Ricci and I connect again.  I have decisions to make about how this fits – or doesn’t fit – into my current life.  Is this who I am or is it just a part of me that doesn’t need to do it to be happy?  And what happens in the next chapter of my journey?

 

 

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A Final Update For 2017

What a whirlwind year this has been.   For many years I have ended the year glad the current one was over and wishing for a better year to come.  And this year is really no different.  However, three was one significant thing from this year that has slightly changed my perspective.

Unlike in years past where my goal was to start something new on Jan 1, this year I have already made the huge step of starting the change early.  As you know, I am about 6 weeks post op and as of last night, I am 71 lbs lighter than I was in October.  That fact alone is amazing.

But there are other amazing things about this surgery that I am just starting to realize.

  • My knees take longer to hurt (and hurt less and less each day)
  • I can stand in line without wanting to cut my legs off and coming close to tears (it is still difficult to stand still, but it is miles better than it was)
  • I can walk for longer periods of time than I have in at least 2 years
  • Clothes I have not been able to wear in a year or two either fit or are slightly too big

These are small things in some ways but have been really important mentally for me.  This Christmas season has not been the easiest.  But I am not ending the year regretting most of it and that is a triumph in itself.

So to all my friends, family and my 5 blog readers, have a Happy New Year.  Here is to 2018!

 

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Updates – Week 3

I can’t believe that we are closing in on a month since the surgery.  Today is 3 weeks and while it has been a harder week than I had hoped, I also see hope ahead.

My inability to consume the protein drinks I need is starting to hinder how I feel.  I am lethargic, my brain feels like swiss cheese most of the time and my stomach has been upset for a couple of days.  I know this is all a response to my body not getting enough of what it needs – protein and sleep.  I start on real food tomorrow and I am hoping that will help.  Small amounts at a time, spread out over the day with smaller protein requirements from the drinks.  I really hope it will help.

I started back to work this week and while I have been somewhat busy, I have been able to hold up ok.  Tired by the end of the day and I have been logging off early as I can.  I have not needed a nap in the middle of the day but I am in bed by 8:30 and asleep by 9 or 9:30 every night.

Most of the above is totally normal.  I have been told that over and over.  Its just hard to keep moving forward when you feel like you are swimming in cottage cheese all the time.  (I apparently miss cheese as I keep using phrases with it mentioned)

I am going to try and shop and cook this weekend so I don’t have to think about food prep each day.  Heat is serve is about what I can handle right now and I don’t want to go back to processed foods.  Homemade is the best.

I am entering Week 4 with a little trepidation.  But over 50 lbs lighter than I was in October.  So here’s to more successes.