Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Come on, just one more!"

I wrote this post for a community Facebook page, which got published today, and thought I'd share it here.  

Enjoy! (And feel free to ask me anything in the comments.)

“Come on, just one more!” 

I’ve been hearing, saying, or thinking that phrase my whole life. When I was a chubby kid, I always wanted just one more cookie. When I was an overweight teenager, I wanted just one more Chicken McNugget. When I was an obese young adult, I wanted just one more slice of pizza. And when I was a morbidly obese adult, I wanted just one more cheeseburger. Nowadays, I push myself to do just one more pushup.

So, how did I go from “just one more cookie” to “just one more push-up”? Weight loss surgery. Specifically, gastric bypass. 

It took me about 10 years, many different diets, and an all-time high of 343 pounds to make the decision to do it, mainly because I thought of it as “quitting” or “taking the easy way out.” Weight loss surgery is neither of these things. What is it? It’s a tool. And just like most tools, the effort you put into using it correctly determines how well it works. And honestly, I think it’s much harder than losing weight in the typical manner. Why? Because even though it physically makes it much harder to overeat, it doesn’t fix the mind. If you’re someone who is obese because you’re bored, use food as a reward, or ignore your feelings through the use of food, weight loss surgery is not going to magically fix these things; these habits and feelings don’t go away simply because the scale is quickly trending downwards. What it takes is changing your habits:  exercise; eat better; and avoid using food as a reward, something to do, as an emotional crutch, etc.

I had gastric bypass surgery in 2013. What got me there, finally, is a very embarrassing and humiliating experience, which happened twice within a week: I was unable to buckle my seatbelt for the first time in my life while flying both to and from Las Vegas. The flight going to Las Vegas was more embarrassing, because the male flight attendant shouted up to his coworker at the front of the plane that he needed the seatbelt extender. Coming home, the woman flight attendant grabbed an extender, palmed it in her hand, and quietly slipped it into mine, for which I was grateful. But it wasn’t just those two moments. It was the five years leading up to them: the frequent acid reflux and heartburn; the fact that I’d go to grocery store, buy three (yes, three!) candy bars and eat them all before I even left the parking lot; and it had become very difficult to find clothing I liked AND that actually fit, which is really hard mentally when you’re only 39 years old. I realized I’d be 400 pounds in no time if I didn’t do something.

So, I signed up for an information seminar, made the decision, and did six months of pre-op preparation and testing to make it happen. Over the last seven years it’s been quite the journey:  I lost 143 pounds; had a tummy tuck with muscle repair; then developed back issues, which resulted in lumbar fusion in 2020; regained 50 pounds after back surgery due to the pandemic, less activity, and emotional eating; and now I’ve discovered I have bursitis and osteoarthritis in both hips, as well as gluteal tendinosis in one hip. Even though it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing, it was the best thing I ever did for myself and don’t regret it—it helped me to change my habits and my lifestyle. 

Do I still want “just one more” when I decide to treat myself? Absolutely, and that will probably never go away. But the last seven years has helped me turn that desire for “more” into pushing myself more to do just one more pushup. The desire to continue to be a weight loss surgery success story outweighs my desire to have that extra piece of pizza. 

I included the pictures below with the post. My "before" picture (left) was taken in September 2013.  I took a cruise to Bermuda with two of my sisters. I was roughly 340 pounds at that point.  Three months later I had gastric bypass surgery. My "after" picture (right) was taken in Huntington Beach, CA, in September 2016 while on a business trip. This was about six months after I started working with my trainer. I believe I was around 220 pounds. I had gained back about 19 pounds at that point and stayed there until I had the abdominoplasty in March 2017. I got down to 200 and then regained that 20 pounds. I hovered around 220/230 until March of 2020 when I had back surgery. Then...well, the pandemic hit and I had a rough year, both mentally and physically. But I'm doing much better now. 


I'm now working on losing the excess weight I gained in 2020 after the lumbar fusion. It's hard to believe that one year after two back surgeries, I'm able to do standing chest presses with a 50-pound barbell. It might not sound like a lot of weight, but it is for someone who has always had shitty upper body strength and had major back surgery a year ago. I'll always need to protect the fusion, but I'm almost back to where I was prior to surgery and that's a good feeling; I never thought I'd get to this point.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

fitness challenge update--just a bit late

Part of my fan club. Emily, Bailey, and Arlo. Yes, Emily and Arlo are twins!

Well, that didn't work out. When I started this 12-week fitness challenge I said I'd post every week with an update and that happened exactly once. But in my defense, I've had a lot going on the last few weeks.

Work was insanely busy due to an annual project whose deadline was unexpectedly about three weeks earlier than planned. I and another team member busted our butts for a week gathering all the information and inputting it, and then...I logged in that Thursday and half of it had been blown away somehow. So, I had to recreate all that work we just did by copying and pasting from the other document that somehow was left untouched (same system that blew away the first one), downloading the document history and pulling information from there, and then taking information from last year's document (it gets updated every year) and putting it into the current one. And then one person who needed to provide some information had system problems, too--his server crashed--so I had to ask an IT person to create a report for us in order to get that information. Let me say, the guy is a saint--he turned it around in an hour!

Given the rough week I had, I didn't eat very well at all and it showed on the scale.

Then this past week I had cortisone shots in both hips. I'd had an MRI a few weeks ago, which showed bursitis and osteoarthritis in both hips, as well as some tendonitis in the left hip. The hip pain has been ongoing since probably June of last year, which is a really long time! I'm pretty sure a lot of it was caused by recovering from back surgery during a pandemic, since I couldn't get out much and get back to a regular routine. I'd had two rounds of cortisone shots last year--one worked and one didn't.  I'd been dragging my feet since November in regard to going to a hip doctor (back surgeon gave me the shots) and finally in January I sucked it up and made an appointment. The doctor ordered the MRI and the follow-up appointment was really frustrating and disappointing. I left feeling like he didn't listen to me at all.  Some doctors don't seem to understand that someone who has had gastric bypass surgery is pretty limited when it comes to oral medications.  I can't have any NSAIDs, like Advil or Aleve, which are the things I need right now since they reduce inflammation. Tylenol can be used with no problem, but I've been taking it daily for 3+ years--usually the max daily dosage in one go, sometimes twice a day, which is A  LOT--so my tolerance for Tylenol is extremely high. At this point, it doesn't even work for a headache anymore. And lots of doctors will not prescribe pain meds these days, which is really my only option now if I want real, fast pain relief--it's incredibly frustrating. Also, I think some doctors are biased against weight loss surgery, which can affect treatment. So, not only did this doctor become visibly frustrated with me when I asked about short-term pain relief until I can get the pain under control through physical therapy and/or cortisone shots, he also didn't explain anything about the MRI results in terms of the arthritis, which is a new diagnosis for me.  I struggled with the decision, but I went in search of another doctor and it turned out to be a good experience. He showed me my MRI and x-rays, and explained everything he was seeing; he told me to ignore the arthritis for now as it's very mild; and he showed me some YouTube videos of exercises I can do to stretch out and strengthen my hips muscles. He gave me the cortisone shots Thursday and today I'm feeling a lot better. The pain isn't completely done yet, but I definitely feel much better than I did before the shots. Also, the pain from one of the shots (left hip) was pretty bad these last couple days. Thankfully that subsided yesterday.

This week's story is I ate better, but didn't get in many workouts since my hips were killing me after the cortisone injections. 

So here's my progress to date:  I've lost about 11 pounds, I'm journaling my food intake everyday, and I'm eating better. I'll take it!

Monday, February 8, 2021

fitness challenge update

I've just finished my first two weeks of my new meal plan and workout routine and I'm happy to report I've lost a total of nine pounds. 

I started two weeks ago at 253.4, which is quite a bit more than what I was this time last year. As of today, I'm 244.4. I had a much bigger drop last week (7.4 pounds), but it's pretty typical to drop a lot the first week and not much the second week. 

My new meal plan averages about 1,980 calories right now, with a split of 26% carbs, 37% protein, and 37% fat.  That's actually A LOT of calories for me given how small my stomach is after weight loss surgery--I've been struggling to eat everything each day and hit my targets.  I recently bought several Isopure protein powders, which I'll use to boost my protein intake without adding many calories and almost no fat and zero carbs. I also got some lower carb protein bars, as well as a few items I haven't tried before. I'm pretty excited about the brownies. They're pretty big and they have only 7g carbs, which isn't bad compared to some other protein bars.  I've been good about logging everything I eat in MyFitnessPal. Looking over my food journal, I noticed I ate more salt this past week, and I also had a couple days of not feeling well. I'm guessing that's part of why I didn't lose as much this week as I'd hoped. But it's a new week!

I think Caesar might want some of my protein bars!

I've logged all my workouts, too. But that's almost unavoidable since they're planned out and are in an app I use to track them. My new plan consists of six workout days and one rest day. I have two days of all body weight exercises, one HIIT day with kettlebells, one day of kettlebells and dumbbells, one resistance band day (worst day of the week!!), and one day with my coach. So far the hardest one was the body weight day, mainly because there are two exercises that were really tough for me because my piriformis muscles have been killing me:  the single leg drop and step-ups for the same reason. I also had a tough time with the dumbbell renegade row, which is part of the dumbbell and kettlebell workout. I had a really hard time keeping my balance while lifting one hand up off the floor. Practice makes perfect, though! I'll get there.

Overall, I'm feeling much better because I'm not eating crap all day anymore--I ate A LOT of Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos and Andy Capp Hot Fries this past year! 

On to Week #3!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

time to overhaul my fitness routine


Yet again, another month has gone by and I've posted only once. It's not that I don't have anything going on or anything to say about it. I've just been very lazy about posting.  That's about to change:  I plan to start posting once a week.

I'm taking part in a 12-week fitness transformation challenge, RBT/Species Nutrition Transformations Challenge through Radical Body Transformations, which starts tomorrow. Participants will have 12 weeks to show the most radical body transformation. After 12 weeks, the winners will be declared. Anyone can enter and it doesn't cost anything. In fact, participants can win cash and prizes. 

I started the meal plan last week and it went well. It's six meals per day and roughly 1,900 calories right now, though I believe that will be changing very soon. To be honest, it was actually too much food, mainly because my stomach is so small now. I also have to again get used to eating on a schedule. Last week it felt as if I was eating all day long and couldn't eat all the food. But at least I'm eating healthy now:  salmon, turkey breast, vegetables, etc.

My workouts will be ramping up this week, not only in frequency but also the exercises. I'm nervous about that, mainly because of the hip issues I'm having. I worry about having pain mostly. I really have nothing I can take--no prescription pain meds, can't take NSAIDs because of the fusion and weight loss surgery, and Tylenol doesn't do anything unless I take the max daily dose in one shot (yes, I'm talking 4,000mg in one dose).  I'm not too worried about hurting myself since I know what I can do and what I can't or shouldn't do. 

Why am I doing this? 2020 was hard. Like, really hard. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because I was recovering from two back surgeries (March 2020), coming off the opioid pain medication I'd been on for almost a year (man, does that ever play with one's mind...), dealing with lots of physical restrictions, getting myself back to full working hours, transitioning to working from home full-time, trying like hell to eat right, and then gearing up to get back into the gym. It...didn't go so well. I gained almost 50 pounds last year. Yes, 50 pounds! My eating was way out of control and even though I got myself back to working out, it was slow going between the physical restrictions and now hip issues. My coach told me about the challenge--he's one of the coaches--and thought it would be a good thing for me, and I agreed. I really need a strict, guided program right now. I initially lost 143 pounds after weight loss surgery, and it's pretty damn scary to see how 1/3 of it came back in about nine months. I don't want to ever go back to 343 pounds--ever!  So tomorrow I begin. 

My plan is to post here each week, possibly with photos, and update you on my progress. It will help me stay on track and keep me accountable, which is what I really need at the moment. 

Let's get it started!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

good riddance, 2020! many of us are elated 2020 will be done and gone by midnight? I can't imagine many people are disappointed. That said, while 2020 sucked (pandemic; we lost several kitties--Oscar, Tessa and Tigger), there were some good things that happened.


Back Surgery

I finally had my lumbar fusion back in March. I no longer have sciatica, which is great. Recovery went well physically for the most part.  My first surgery was March 3, right when the pandemic was picking up speed, and the second was March 17, which is when schools started shutting down and events were being cancelled. Recovering from back surgery during a pandemic was tough, because I probably would have felt better if I'd been able to get back to a regular routine earlier. With everything being shut down, my life became just trips to the pharmacy and the grocery store, and that was only after I could drive myself. I took a few trips prior, as I was absolutely desperate to get out of the house. 

Mentally, it was...rough. That's probably an understatement. While it really sucked having to be home all the time due to the pandemic, and then moving to remote-only work once I was cleared to start working again, it was much harder coming off the opioid pain medication, which I'd been on for almost a year. At the time I had absolutely no idea that weaning off after so long could cause depression and anxiety--two things I'd never dealt with before. I really, really wish the doctor or the physician's assistants had told me what to expect. But they didn't. (I assume it's because the pain management doctor was managing my pain meds before surgery, and then that was transferred to the back surgeon's team. And don't get me started on the PAs--they sometimes made me feel like a drug addict.) I knew about the possible physical side effects--thankfully I didn't have any--I knew nothing about the mental effects. So, since I had no idea all this emotional turmoil was common, I spent weeks getting worse and worse, thinking I was just a basket case and having no idea what was going on. My poor husband had no idea what to do with me.  (And, honestly, I didn't even know what to do with myself.) I contacted the doctor's office to ask if it was the gabapentin, since that can cause issues. They took me off of it, but I was still a mess. After talking to several people in my life, it became apparent that all of this was the effect of weaning off the pain meds. I contacted the office again and the PA's answer was, "We don't prescribe anti-anxiety meds. Go see your primary doctor or a therapist." By the time I finally got an appointment with the primary doctor, I was just about done with the meds, but she prescribed an anti-depressant, which I don't think helped at all. But once I was off the pain meds, the depression and anxiety just magically went away. Never once did the PAs ever suggest that maybe it was the pain meds and the fact I was weaning off after a year. 

I'm back to working out now. Although I'd gone through physical therapy and started doing some light workouts at home--partly to get back into shape and build my strength, but also to feel a little bit "normal"--I didn't go back to my personal trainer until October, mostly because he needed emergency knee surgery, but also because I wasn't cleared to do all that much yet, which meant I wouldn't really get my money's worth from going to the trainer. 

I'm having some issues with my hips now, so I plan to see the hip doctor. My back surgeon gave me several cortisone shots for bursitis, but they didn't help the second time around. The hip issue makes it hard to sit at my desk for very long.  Since I have a desk job, that makes work difficult sometimes. It's a bit depressing to have fixed one problem and now be dealing with another. But at least my back is fixed, I guess!

Some days.                                                                Other days.

Cancer Scare

A couple months ago I had an abnormal mammogram for the first time in my life--I'm 46 so I admittedly haven't had all that many yet. It was very unexpected and I was beating myself up for being six months late, which was due to COVID and the back surgery recovery. The whole time I told my logical self that it's very likely nothing since breast cancer doesn't run in my family and if it IS something, it's very early and would be completely treatable.  But my emotional self was scared as hell that it would be something. I had another mammogram on that one breast along with an ultrasound and was then told it's very likely nothing, but I had a choice to come back in six months for another mammogram or have an MBI done, which stands for molecular breast imaging. It's like a cross between a mammogram and an MRI, along with an injection of a radio tracer. I went for the MBI for peace of mind, as I know people who either knew or suspected something was wrong an ignored it; were misdiagnosed and it was too late once they got a correct diagnosis; or were just completely blindsided because there were no symptoms. Although it was nerve-wracking, it turned out to be nothing! Now it's just a matter of checking up on it every six months.


We won't go there.  All I need to say about this is that I had two back surgeries during a pandemic and also had to deal with coming off opioid pain meds. I've got some work to do in the kitchen and out in the gym...


We were able to sell our old house right before the pandemic hit.  We'd we'd rented it out to various people when we moved six years ago.  That was a huge mistake, but thankfully we no longer have to worry about that house or anything else that goes along with it. The closing was about a week before my back surgery.  Now that we don't have another mortgage to worry about, we've been able to pay off some credit cards, though we still have a long ways to go.


How does Christmas manage to come so fast every year? Especially this year. I thought for sure this year would drag by slowly, but it seems to have gone by faster than any other year. To me, at least.

As usual, we went to Old Sturbridge Village for their Christmas by Candlelight program. Given the pandemic, it was different this year. There were attendance restrictions and people were not able to go inside the buildings or get food samples, which is normally my favorite part, especially the mulled cider. Some exhibits were moved outside, while others were done inside, but the windows and/or doors were open so people could look in. Parts of the village that are normally closed for this program were open this year, like the Freeman Farm and the blacksmith shop, where we got to watch them making sleds. They also piped music throughout the village, which was a nice touch. We didn't spend as much time as we normally do since much of the time we spend there is usually inside the buildings, which were mostly off limits, but we still had a good time. We came home with goodies from the gift shop, like village-made tin lanterns and books about old houses, and a local antique store where I got more antique glass Christmas ornaments. Afterwards we went to a late dinner at the Oxhead Tavern.

Some of my "new" ornaments:

At Old Sturbridge Village:

We got two Christmas trees, just like we always do. There's a small tree farm about 20 minutes away and you can cut your own tree. Any tree, no matter how big, is just $30.00. I can get two trees for less than the cost of one from a local pre-cut tree lot (pre-cut trees usually start around $55-$60 and go up from there). One tree is decorated with C9 lights and antique glass ornaments, like the kind I had growing up. I think I now have enough antique ornaments to cover the tree without filling in spots with new ones, though I still put the plastic unbreakable ones on the bottom so the cats don't ruin anything. The other tree has the standard miniature lights and modern ornaments. This year we put that one in the living room and the one with the old fashioned decorations in the den near the fireplace. Given how small the den is we had to find a smaller tree. It fits well and we don't have to maneuver around it.

On Christmas Eve I burned the traditional bayberry candle, which is supposed to bring luck and good fortune to the house in the new year--let's hope 2021 is better than 2020! (The second one will be burned tonight.) Christmas day was a small affair--just me and my husband. It was his first Christmas off in several years, so we decided to stay home. Plus, you know, COVID. We opened gifts, relaxed, watched Christmas shows and movies, and played with the new Atari Flashback I bought for us.  I made a small prime rib, which I'll use the leftovers to make hash, along with mashed potatoes and carrots. It was a good, relaxing day.

I have no plans for tonight other than to make dinner--probably a cheddar BBQ meatloaf--, hang out with my husband and the cats, and maybe play some Atari Flashback. :)

Happy New Year, everyone! PLEASE let 2021 be better!! 

Apparently Bailey has had it with 2020.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

another goodbye

2020 is the year that keeps on giving, isn't it?  We've lost our third kitty this year:  Oscar.

We got Oscar in 2005 at a local adoption event, which was run by New Leash on Life. Apparently his owner had passed away and the family didn't want her two cats. They dropped Oscar and his sibling off at a local rescue without any paperwork or even telling the rescue the cats' names. Given there was no paperwork, we believe he was around three to four years old at the time. I was looking at Prince, who was in a long cage with a bunch of kittens. Prince was six months old and the kittens were just a few months old. He was on one side of the cage, trying to stay away from the kittens. So we decided to get him. Then Bob spotted this cute black and white kitty who was in a cage by himself with  a name tag that read, "Help! Get me out of here!" The poor guy had no name on his cage unlike all the other cats and kittens.  Bob felt sorry for him, so we came home with two cats that day.

We called him Mr. No Name for a while and then eventually settled on "Oscar." He was lovable from the start and we discovered he was a hugger. He liked to be held near our shoulders so he could wrap his paws around our necks and hug us. He was great with the other cats--very tolerant and let them cuddle with him. Eventually most of them seemed to think of him as Dad or even Grandpa in more recent years. 

Even though Oscar was young when we adopted him, he'd already lost most of his teeth. And since there was no paperwork, we have no idea what happened. Although he had virtually no teeth, he wouldn't touch wet food and almost no form of human food, not even tuna fish. The only human food he would touch is ham (lunch meat), which we eventually stopped giving to him. He also had pica, which is a compulsive eating disorder in which people or animals eat nonfood items. He favored plastic bags and wrapping mostly, but also tissues and napkins, which meant we had to make sure anything plastic was thrown away and any tissue boxes were turned over at night. If we didn't, I'd come downstairs in the morning to find half-eaten tissues. He even ate a check once! I had to tell my friend to send me the money she owed via PayPal because my cat ate half the check. 

Oscar has two accomplishments:  he was featured in a banking industry calendar back in 2012, which featured pictures of clients' pets; and that same picture (posted at the beginning of this blog post) I took of him won second place in a photo contest. The prize was a mug with his photo on it, which I still use. 

A couple years ago Oscar was diagnosed with a large mass in his bladder. We were told they could remove it, but it would mean losing more than half his bladder. At his age then, which was about 15 or 16, we decided that would be too invasive and we just left it alone. The vet told us it may or may not be cancer, but if we notice he's coughing a lot and starting to decline, then it's most likely cancer. Surprisingly that never happened and he lived a couple more years with no issues. 

Over the last few months we started to notice Oscar was losing weight, which is pretty normal for a cat that's about 18 or 19 years old. Then a couple weeks ago we noticed the weight loss had accelerated and he was basically just a skeleton with fur--very matted fur, as he'd stopped grooming maybe a year ago and brushing wasn't always enough. We knew it was almost time. I then started noticing he wasn't really eating, but was still drinking, jumping, and playing a bit. But he was also behaving strangely, as though he was going senile. For example, he would stay in the bathroom most of the day--a room he never ventured into--or howl very loudly for no reason. A few times I turned on the shower not knowing he was in there. When I went to get into the shower, he was in there drinking the water and was soaking wet. It seemed like he either didn't know the water was hitting him or just didn't care anymore. I had to physically remove him from the shower. Last Thursday afternoon he started sleeping a lot more and Emily snuggled with him all day. Friday he was in his bed all day and didn't come out for food, water or the litter box. He also started sounding a little congested. By Friday night, it was clear it was time to bring him in to be euthanized:  Bob picked him up and he just laid there and seemed very lost, like he didn't know what was going on. His eye was glued shut by gunk, too. We struggled for a couple hours, trying to decide if we should take him to the 24 hour vet hospital or if we should wait until the following day to see if he would pass in his sleep or if not, we could bring him to our own vet. We decided it would be cruel to wait until Saturday so we called the vet hospital and brought him in. 

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure Oscar was the cat we've owned for the longest--15 years. He had a very long life and he was a great cat. I'm so glad Bob convinced me we should get a second cat that day at the adoption event. (Although, it's not as though I needed much convincing.) I'm going to miss his hugs and the fact that all the cats seemed to think of him as Grandpa. I guess he was a comforting presence to them, especially Emily--she is really missing him I think, as she's decided I'm now the one to cuddle with.  I won't, however, miss having to hide the plastic bags and tissues! So hopefully Oscar is now with all the other kitties we've said goodbye to over the years. We'll miss him, and so will Emily.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

soap and other good stuff

It's been a really long time since I posted, so I thought I'd make it easy on myself and show you some of the goodies I've bought over the last few months. Recovery from two back surgeries+pandemic+weaning off pain meds=buying lots of crap. 

Back in August I went on vacation to visit my cousin in PA. We visited Kitchen Kettle Village, which is a collection of stores and food places. They also have a place called Pappy's Kettle Korn that makes fresh kettle corn and OMG it's the best I've ever had! (They also make caramel corn and flavored nuts.) Every time I go there I get a huge bag to bring home. Problem is, it never makes it home as a full bag. I always open it on my way home. This time I was smart and bought a huge bag for home and a small bag to eat on the way home. It only took me about an hour to open it and start snacking. (When I went online to Kitchen Kettle I saw they have a website AND they ship!!)

I decided to try shampoo and conditioner bars. I'd heard of them, but hadn't seen them in the store. I felt they were expensive, but wanted to give them a try. I was told the shampoo bar can also be used as body wash/soap and the conditioner bar can be used for shaving. While the shampoo bar lathered well, the conditioner bar felt like nothing at all on my hair. It was a weird experience because I'm used to feeling the conditioner in my hair. Once my hair was dry, it felt kind of heavy, like I didn't get the conditioner out or that it wasn't completely clean. I gave these bars a few more tries and decided this isn't something I'd buy again. though I'm sure there could be others I might like better.

Most of what I bought during the last few months has come from Beekman 1802. The guys who started this company won season 21 of the Amazing Race back in 2012. We were able to visit their farm a few years and it was fun.  I've never bought any of their products before and I figured with recovery from surgery and a pandemic going on, it was a good time to try them. 

Here are some of the items I bought from Beekman. I didn't take pictures of everything, but most of it is here.

(Note:  some of these items can be found cheaper on the Home Shopping Network website.)

  • Natural deodorant: I read on their website that switching to a natural deodorant can take the body up to 30 days to adjust. Deodorants that are also antiperspirants contain aluminum, which clogs the pores, which in turn controls wetness. As such, it takes time for the body to adjust to something that is aluminum-free. Since I'm working from home and not going out much, I decided to try it. Overall I like it: it smells nice, it feels like, and the stick I bought seems to last (that's a plus since it's $18.00). Although my body has adjusted, I find I need to reapply at least once during the day depending on my level of activity. I also don't care for the wetness. Because of this, I've decided to switch back to a regular antiperspirant/deodorant
  • Goat milk soap:  I bought a lot of these and I like them all but one, which is the Spring soap. It smells too musky for me and not like Spring at all. These soap bars aren't cheap, but they're HUGE at 9 ounces each. They lather well and smell nice, plus they seem to last a long time. 

As you can see, I went a little wild with the bath products, among other things. I like Beekman, though. They make quality products using local ingredients, people, and businesses.  They also make things like jams and jellies; candies; condiments; goat cheese and Blaak cheese (once a year); hair, skin and bodycare products; and ceramics.  If you ever get a chance, take a tour of their farm. It's usually offered once a year in the Spring, though I'm not sure if that will happen in 2021 due to the pandemic. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

physical therapy after lumbar fusion

When I talked to my orthopedic surgeon about recovery from the lumbar fusion I was about to have, he didn't go into all that much detail. I asked questions, of course, and he answered them, but I didn't think to ask much about physical therapy. I knew I'd have to have it, but didn't know for how long or what kinds of things I'd be doing. All I knew is it wouldn't start until at last a month after the second surgery, would be at least four to six weeks, and it would start out slow and very low impact.

I started physical therapy April 28, twice per week, and have completed almost three months at this point. At my first appointment I had no idea what to expect since I'm not allowed to bend, twist, or lift more than 10 pounds. What could they possibly have me do that didn't involve any of those things?  The answer is:  not much, but something.  I started off with supine ankle pumps, quad squeezes, glute (butt) squeezes, marching my legs, ball squeezes using my knees, and transverse abdominis bracing, which basically means "suck your abs in and let them out." This was all why laying down on the table. They also had me use stretchy bands, which look like a jump rope, to do lateral pull-downs and rows. I also did hamstring stretches using a strap since I can't sit up and bend forward like I used to, at least not yet. I've now progressed to other things to give me more of a workout and target some problem areas, like my hips. I'm doing clam shells, side steps and "skaters" with ankle bands, more arm exercises, squats using a chair as my landing spot (harder than one might think!)--sometimes holding a one-pound ball and sometimes not, among other things. I also do most of these things at home the other five days of the week, using my home gym of course! I generally do physical therapy, whether it's at home or at the PT office, everyday. Though I do occasionally take a day off, especially when they have me do something new or they work my hips a lot.

Has it helped? Yes, definitely.  

I feel better the rest of the day afterwards and it keeps me somewhat active given what's going on these last few months. As you all know, we've been dealing with a pandemic for months. Things really started picking up in my state in the two weeks between the two surgeries (March), with many things starting to be closed/cancelled while I was in the hospital for the second surgery. (The news alerts were so frequent that I finally turned my phone on silent; normally it's on "vibrate," but I couldn't stand even that anymore.) I came out of the hospital into a world that literally changed almost overnight. Masks weren't yet required, but many things were closing or being cancelled. Eventually non-essential businesses closed; restaurants either moved to curbside pickup or takeout, or closed completely; business hours were significantly reduced for essential businesses; companies started having employees work from home; and masks were mandated when out in public. As a result, I feel like recovery has been much longer and slower physically than it would normally have been. I couldn't get out and start doing normal errands, going out to eat, and going into the office.  Even though places are now opening up, I'm still nowhere near as active anymore and I'm now working from home permanently.

Not only has physical therapy helped me physically, but it has helped me mentally. In the beginning it helped because it got me out of the house twice a week. Up until then, my life was visits to the pharmacy and the grocery store. That's it. And now it helps me feel "normal" to be able to go out to my gym, put on my music, and do my physical therapy. I'm an introvert, but all that means is I recharge by spending time alone. And though I do tend to keep to myself and not socialize all that much, it doesn't mean I hate people.  Never did I think I would miss talking to and seeing people. Any people. I miss going into the office and talking to my coworkers, and just having that routine in general. Things are getting better now that I've mostly adjusted to working from home, though I don't yet have a home office--that's coming soon and there will be pictures. And I'm working on getting myself into a routine that's more than "get up, feed the cats, sit at the computer reading work blogs while drinking my homemade iced mocha latte, start working, take a shower at some point, then work some more until whenever." Even just getting back into the routine of taking my vitamins has been a big struggle. 

I'll end this here. There's lots more to talk about in regards to recovery from surgery, which I'll cover at another time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

a hello and two goodbyes

I started this post a while back. It took me so long to get back to it, we now have had two goodbyes.

First, the "hello."

We have a new kitty, and his name is Caesar. He's another kitty from the Stratford Cat Project. We got him in December, just a few days before Christmas, and he was about seven months old at the time. As you can see, he's a cute Tuxedo kitty. He seems small; however, I admit most of my cats are quite large. Not necessarily fat, just big. 

What can I say about Caesar? He's a little quirky. He likes to chirp. He's been known to watch TV. He gets startled easily. Although he knows us and has been here for six months, he tends to run when he thinks we're walking too close to him. He'll be eating dry food and if we walk into the kitchen, he takes off, usually dropping dry food on his way out. Maybe he's afraid of feet? He likes the bathroom sink for some reason. At first he liked playing with the running water, but now he seems to like stretching in the sink. Kitty yoga fan maybe? Kind of weird, but that's what he likes. When I feed the cats, I line up the dishes on the entertainment center (they get fed in the family room because I have 12 cats and the kitchen is too small--OLD house). As I open the cans and put the food in the dishes, he stands partly on the cat tree and partly on the entertainment center and licks the empty cans. Sometimes he gets up on the entertainment center and sneaks around the back so he can start eating from the dishes. He can't seem to wait long enough for me to put the dishes on the floor. 

And now for the "goodbyes."

I always hate having to write these posts, since I usually cry the whole time. In both cases, these were kitties that we wanted to "save."


Our first goodbye was Tigger. Tigger showed up on our doorstep somewhere around April 15, which was about a month after my second back surgery. At that point I was up very early everyday, usually around 4 am or earlier--it was definitely still dark outside. Well, he showed up one morning, crying for food and acting as though he lived here. Me being the soft heart I am when it comes to cats, I decided to feed him. He scarfed the food down like he hadn't eaten in weeks. He was so skinny and was dirty, too. He looked as though he'd been outside for awhile. He was very friendly, though. He purred like crazy and wanted so much attention. Once he has his fill, he left. He then showed up the next day for the same routine. He didn't come back again until around May 15 and it was the same routine. This time he was skinnier, if that was even possible, and had obvious mouth pain. Bob and I both said we should put him in the spare bedroom and then bring him to the vet the next day. 

We took him to the vet and he was there for more than a week. They calculated his age to be 12-15 years old. It turns out he had many health issues:  double ear infection; hyperthyroidism, which is why he was so skinny; kidney disease; and congestion that wasn't improving. The mouth issue was thought to be either an abscess or possibly a tumor. In order to inspect it, they would need to put him under anesthesia; however, because of the other health issues he was too weak to do that. Another option was a needle biopsy, but no matter what it turned out to be, it was in a hard-to-access area, which meant he would go through a lot of physical trauma in order to fix it. I didn't want to put a senior, very sick kitty through that when it was likely he might not even survive surgery. And if it turned out to be a tumor, we would lose him anyway. 

We made the decision to put him down. Thankfully we were allowed to be there for it. We both cried a lot. I cried probably more than if he'd been my cat his whole life, probably because I was convinced I could save him, and he came at a time when I needed something to focus on while recovering from surgery during a pandemic. And I think what made it worse was that he clearly recognized us when we walked into the back office where they had him in isolation. He perked right up and started prancing around. We spent some time with him and then we helped him over the Rainbow Bridge. 

We have his ashes and will bury him in our garden. I think he came to us because he knew he would get the help he needed, even though it came in the form of euthanasia. He needed his suffering to end, one way or another. By coming to us, he didn't die suffering and alone. 


Last year Tessa came to us with her brother, Toby, from the Stratford Cat Project. They had been adopted out of the Project as kittens; however, they were returned last year in a semi-feral state:  very aggressive, fearful, and unsocialized. Given their state, they weren't adoptable again. The choice was to euthanize them or to make them "barn cats." Me being me, I volunteered us to be their caregivers--we do have a barn, after all! 

We were lent a couple large dog cages and we set them up in the barn with their cat carriers, food, water, litter and blankets. We covered them with moving blankets to keep in some warmth (it was starting to get chilly at night) and also to make them feel more secure. We spent the next several weeks feeding them and cleaning their litter.  Very, very carefully, I might add. Any time we got our hands too close, we got a hiss and a growl, and usually a swipe of the paws. I began using a stick to pull the empty food and water bowls out of the cage, as well as pulling out the litter box. After a few weeks we let them out of the cages. We put out food and water in the barn, and Bob built some cat shelters so they'd have someplace warm to sleep. Eventually we moved the food dishes to the patio. 

We saw Toby only twice after we let them out of the cages; however, Tessa came around to eat everyday. We often saw her sleeping in the barn window or hanging out under the bushes. She seemed content. We were never able to approach her; however, we eventually were able to get within about eight feet of her before she would retreat. 

A couple weeks ago someone knocked on my door. He told me a cat had been hit by a car.  He described it and asked if it belonged to me. Based on the description, I was nearly 100% sure it was Tessa. It was. When I went outside she was across the street on the side of the road, still alive and clearly in a lot of pain. She was panting from the pain and was bleeding from the mouth. The man's friend was there, as was another friend of theirs. They had wrapped her in a blanket.  I ran in to call the vet; however, the doctor wasn't in yet so I had to take her to the emergency hospital. The man who wrapped her in the blanket helped me get her into a carrier and then into the car. She was scared and in pain, so she would occasionally hiss and try to bite us. 

Within minutes of arriving at the emergency vet, they called me to tell me euthanasia was the best option, as she had numerous fractures that would require extensive and multiple surgeries. In addition, she was having difficulty breathing. I gave the OK to put her down. Although I wanted to be there with her for it, the doctor said I wasn't allowed in the ICU and if I wanted to be there, they would need to remove her from the oxygen in order to bring her into an exam room. I didn't want her to suffer anymore, so I waited in the exam room while they euthanized her. They then brought her in when they were done so I could say goodbye. I decided to have her cremated and her ashes will be buried in the garden, too.

The man who knocked on my door that morning came back later in the day to check in and see how Tessa was. I was so touched by that, as not many people would do that these days, nor would they have even stopped to look for the owner of a cat that was hit by a car. And it wasn't just one person--it was THREE. And it turns out they live in my neighborhood, too.

Although I'm glad Tessa was cared for the last year of her life and we were the ones to do it, I really struggle with the fact that she was hit by a car and we had her for less than a year; I no longer let my own cats out because it happened to one of my previous cats many years ago. On the other hand, she wasn't adoptable anymore and she spent the last year enjoying the sun, being fed everyday, and chasing chipmunks.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

my home gym: it's purple!

I've been sitting on this for a very long time. Since last year, as a matter of fact. I had some things going on at the time and didn't want to advertise it. Then life (and back pain) got in the way and I just didn't want to sit down and write a blog post; sitting too long hurt. Then I had my two back surgeries in March and couldn't sit down to write. Well, it's now May and I'm able to sit and write, so it's time to reveal my home gym. Plus, writing this will hopefully keep my mind occupied for a bit; I'm really struggling mentally at the moment.

When my previous company was bought, I didn't get a job offer. Instead, I was given a nice bonus to stay on for a period of time and wrap up things. Fine by me! I didn't want to work for the new company for several reasons, and that bonus enabled me to build a home gym.

My previous company had a small on-site gym, which I used four days per week. It was SO convenient--literally 20 feet from my office!  I would eat lunch at my desk, go into the gym at 4:00 PM, and then go home right after. It kept me on track, because I didn't have to go to a crowded gym across town. Nor did I have to drive home, eat dinner, change, and then go to the gym. That would have resulted in my saying, "Screw it!" Having that gym was awesome. When I left the company, I then had to either pick one of those two options, or work out at home on my patio since the new company doesn't have a gym. For several months I worked out either in the living room or on the patio, weather-permitting. It was fine, but it limited my workouts since I couldn't jump around in the house and I couldn't really buy any equipment I wanted and needed. Not to mention it was getting too hot outside to work out comfortably. That's when I decided I'd use my sizable bonus to build a home gym.  

The first step was deciding where the gym would be. I had several options:  convert the existing shed, which would need work and was smaller than I wanted; renovate part of the barn, which is huge and almost 300 years old; build one from scratch; or buy a prefab shed.  The first three options would take too much time, money and effort, so I opted to buy a prefab shed. Expensive, yes, but it would be delivered already completely built and sided, and they would do the minimal site work for us. It was very much worth it to us to not have to do a ton of work. 

Shed delivered! This is the side entrance.

Front entrance. Behind it is our barn, which is original to the property.

Once the shed was delivered, the next step was to insulate it and install drywall, run electricity, install a mini-split heat/AC unit (also very much worth it), and then paint it. I chose purple, because that's my favorite color. The exact color is Sonic Plum by Valspar, which I got at Lowe's. We didn't drywall the ceiling and instead left the beams exposed, which I painted white. Even though we used a spray gun for that, it was a big job. We also installed horse stall mats for the flooring. They're so easy to install. You just drag them in and lay them down. No need to glue or screw them down. Not all that easy to trim since they're quite thick, but we got it done. The final item was the wall of mirrors. Those I completely shattered one by accident and then chipped another one. Rather than buy yet another mirror, I put that mirror in the far corner.

Inside, before we finished it off.

Painting finished!

Finally, it was time to fill it with the fun stuff! I had enough money left from my bonus to buy a piece of commercial grade equipment: a functional trainer. It's the Inspire Fitness FT2. Yes, it was expensive, but it was worth it. It does everything I need it to and then some. It comes with a smith bar, which hooks into the dual weight stacks. I opted for the bench and leg curl attachment. (I wish I didn't get the leg curl attachment, since it's not really something I should be using with my back problems. But maybe someday.) I bought a lateral bar to add to it so I can do proper lateral pull downs. I also added a battle rope, plyo boxes, a mat, a step, slam balls, wall balls, dumbbells, and kettle bells.  Within the last week I've added small weighted balls and a stretching strap, which I'll be using as I do physical therapy.

As you can see, a lot of work went into this gym. Yes, it was expensive, but it was worth it. I can go out there anytime I want, it's heated/cooled, has all the equipment I need (for now), and has a very nice, LOUD Bluetooth speaker. :) (If anyone wants to know, it's the Ultimate Ears Megablast, which has built-in Alexa.) It's my own personal space, kind of an escape.  And since it's right in my back yard, I have absolutely no reason not to work out! Though I just had back surgery, so I won't be able to do too much out there for a while yet. I'm back to using it, though. I do my physical therapy out there, which is helping me feel like myself again. A tiny bit, anyway.

My new functional trainer. Ignore the dusty floor mats.
They're black and don't photograph well.

The finished product! I even have a mini fridge for my water. 

The main wall.

Ignore the floor. I hadn't yet swept. I added a nice Bluetooth speaker, which is on the shelf.