Why do I even bother?

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This was me, back in May. (As is obvious, since my hair is long. Have I shown you guys my new hair cut and the dyeing job I did myself? I need to check that in a minute.) You might notice my rather prominent stomach. That isn’t because I’m pregnant. It’s because I’m fat. I weighed 245 lbs in May with the goal to getting down to around 200 lbs by December.

Fast forward to the end of September/beginning of October. I weigh 247 lbs. I got down to 230ish at one point, but I’m back up to almost 250 lbs. Now part of this is when my legs went out due to the nerve issues, I went completely sedentary. I also didn’t exactly cut down my portion size. I could barely hobble around the house, let alone go for walks or anything more physical. I even gave up  yoga/stretching.

I’m planning on taking a more current picture soon, so we can all see what I look like now. I’ve started taking new steps towards changing my weight and physical health. I’ve installed two apps on my phone – one to help me keep track of how many calories I should be eating to lose around 1.5 lbs/wk, how much fat/protein/sugar/carbs I should be eating per day, and it even tracks my water, and the other to track me as I walk (usually with the puppy.)

My end target goal is ~135 lbs. Why? Because I’m 5’3″ and a healthy weight for my size is between 107 and 140 lbs. As far as I’m concerned, with my bone structure, I’d start looking more like a skeleton with skin stretched over it if I let myself get too close to 107 lbs. So I’m trying for 130-135 lbs. At 1.5 lbs/week, that should take around 2 years.

I’m taking it as slow as I am because 4-8 lbs/month is a healthy weight loss. Anything more is considered unhealthy and anything less isn’t really helpful because you just pack it all right back on. Now, I am very aware that as I lose more fat it’ll convert to muscle and my weight may or may not fluctuate as much at times. I’m not worried about that. One of my goals is to get rid of my stomach along with losing my weight.

Now, you might be concerned by the title of this post. You might think it’s because I’m depressed about my weight and such.

I’m not.

“Why do I even bother?” That was a question that used to send me into a spiral of depression and self-destruction. Now, when that pops into my head, I tell myself why.

“I want to be healthy.”

“I’m tired of feeling ugly.”

“I want to be able to wear the clothing I like.”

“I want to be able to keep up a little more often with my husband.”

“I want to be able to farm without getting out of breath every two seconds.”

“I want to be able to get off some of the medications I’m on.”

“I want to be able to go to cons and not feel quite so out of place.”

These are just some of the reasons, and they all make me smile. I’m not proud of who I’ve been in my life, but I am who it’s made me, and there’s so much I’ve learned over the years that – realistically – I don’t want to change what I’ve endured. I want to change how I deal with it, how I let it affect me now, and let go of everything that’s weighing me down (pardon the pun) from my past. Part of my expanded waistline is because I “depression eat” and don’t exercise.

That’s changing now. No more candy (except for dark chocolate.) Very few sugary drinks (I’m not giving up all my quad shot mochas or the occasional Mike’s Hard Lemonade/wine cooler/similar beverage – but NO MORE HARD LIQUOR/SODA mixes.) Cut back on my simple sugars and refined sugars (syrup, cookies, brownies, etc. – though I’ll still eat them on occasion). There are special occasions where some of these will be lifted (just not the hard liquor one) – such as holidays – but that’s about it.

I have goals.

I have a life.

I’m going to live instead of exist.

I’m 40 – I’m not dead.

I am an adaptable human being – watch me succeed!

Finished Product 8302017

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Adapting to life

Random Ramblings #2 – The Health Episode

Hi everyone. You may have noticed I missed yesterday’s post. That was mostly because of the eclipse here in the US. I was excited for that and really wasn’t paying attention to anything else. I was also dealing with another issue, one mentioned in the YouTube video I linked above. It’s my second vlog episode, and one where I actually break down. I don’t do that often in anything public, least of all something that’s on the internet. But I felt it was important to get out my message, and that’s part of it.

What’s so important that I had to say it when I was so emotional? I went to the ER for a screaming headache and the fact that my legs felt like someone poured gasoline (petrol for those of you not in the US) on them and lit them on fire. They were so much on fire I wanted to scream. They still are. The Nurse Practitioner treated the migraine but really didn’t say much about my legs other than that the pain was most likely a “form of neuropathy.” When I talked to my primary care doctor, she agreed with the assessment. When I talked to my vascular surgeon he agreed with the assessment, even though neuropathy typically sticks to the feet and hands and is more common to someone with diabetes.

No, I don’t have diabetes. I don’t even have pre-diabetes. My A1C number (that’s what they look at to assess your likelihood for diabetes) is at the low end of what’s considered normal. It’s not too low though, so there’s nothing to be worried about. But now I have a problem – what exactly is wrong with my legs, and is it permanent? I hope it’s not, but if it is, I’ll have mobility issues for the rest of my life. This is something that I don’t look forward to, since I have more than enough health issues that are going to last me for the rest of my life. I don’t need one more.

I’ve set another appointment with my primary care doctor to see what she says, what tests I need to take to find out what this is, and how I can treat it – if there is a treatment. I’ve had to make some adjustments to my life, though at first I thought I’d lost the ability to do one of the things that makes me really happy.

I thought I’d lost the ability to cook and bake. Both of those require me to stand on my feet, and my legs just couldn’t take it. It was suggested I could sit in the kitchen and direct people, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to have my hands in everything. I wanted to chop, stir, knead bread, mix pancakes. I wanted to do everything when it came to the cooking.

So, thanks to my wonderful friend Deborah urging me not to give up on something I love so much, I came up with the idea to turn the table that serves as the “island” in our kitchen into my work space. With some help, I cleared it off and got rid of most of the stuff under it. I tucked a stool underneath for me to sit on and voila, instant work area. It got its first test yesterday morning, and it worked fairly well. I still had to do a lot of standing and walking, but that was mostly because my original breakfast plan got scrapped due to not finding a couple ingredients. But if I plan carefully, I shouldn’t have to worry about standing at all, except to pull things out of the oven and to drain things in the sink, like pasta. This makes me very happy.

What I’ve learned through all of this is humans are very adaptable creatures. We constantly adapt our surroundings to suit us. And if that doesn’t work, we adapt to that as well. We know we can do things that will make our lives easier, or at the very least more livable. We are remarkably resilient and can do a lot of stuff.

So when life throws a curve ball in your direction, don’t let it stop you. Roll with it and adapt to the situation. Figure out how to deal with it and move forward. Go ahead and have a good cry if you need to. An emotional breakdown is okay. I’ve had a few since this all started. But the next step is to keep moving beyond them. Keep moving forward. That’s the only way to survive.

I love you Mom

Melissa Mom Alissa Maegan Shandra

(This picture contains my older sister Melissa – who passed away from cancer in 2016, my mom – who passed away from cancer in 2003, my niece Alissa – who is Melissa’s youngest daughter, my youngest sister Maegan – who is mentally disabled and will never be able to live on her own, and my niece Shandra – Melissa’s oldest daughter.)

My mom. I still have so many conflicting emotions about her. My childhood wasn’t great living with her, but those two years before her death were amazing, and those are the ones I’m choosing to focus on more and more often now. She was so excited about my Katie being born. She so desperately wanted to be there. But her doctor told her that wasn’t going to happen. She went from diagnosis to death in three weeks – stage 4 stomach cancer that would have been discovered if her asshole doctor had just listened to her instead of brushing her off, telling her to “get a hobby” and that she was “depressed.”

Today would have been my mom’s 78th birthday. I often think about how life would have been different if she’d survived her cancer. Would we have lost our kids? Would we have ended up living on the coast? Would I have tried to commit suicide in 2013? Would she have abandoned us if we had lost the kids like the rest of our families did at that point in our lives?

Of course, the answer to all of these questions is “I don’t know.” I’ve been asked how I can love my mom after all she did to me. Well, I can honestly say my childhood wasn’t all bad. I do have a ton of happy memories from it too. There was a lot of uncertainty and fear growing up in my parents’ house, about whether my mom’s mental illness – though none of us knew anything about bipolar disorder back then – would cause me problems or not, but we had a lot of fun too.

Like cooking lessons. On her good days, those were a blast. She was teaching me how to make chocolate chip cookies and had to run to the bathroom. I was 10 I think. She told me when the timer went off I was supposed to pull the cookies out of the oven. Except she forgot to set the timer. I realized this and decided to help. I looked at the recipe, saw it said 10 minutes, and then set the timer – it was one of the ones where you twisted the dial past 10  and then you could sent the time. I watched the timer and when it dinged I pulled out the cookies.

They were burnt. I was horrified (and a little scared – mom’s nature being what it was back then) that I was going to get yelled at. Mom came out and looked at them, then looked at the timer. “I didn’t set the timer, did I?” I explained what I’d done. She just laughed and showed me how to do it properly. And that the recipe said 8 to 10 minutes and that 8 minutes was almost too much in our oven. She usually only put them in for 6. She threw away the burnt cookies and we carried on.

Then there were the camping trips. Oh the camping trips. My dad was a workaholic when I was growing up, but when he took his vacation in the summer, we did two things – went to visit my grandparents and went camping. My visits to my grandparents were never comfortable, but that’s for another post. Let’s talk camping.

I think being outdoors was soothing to my mom. She loved camping, going for picnics, going fishing, doing anything she could outside. On our camping trips, we’d go to one of our favorite campgrounds in two cars. Up until I was probably 14 or 15, dad would be driving the old pickup he bought in the late 60s packed full of our camping gear while mom brought me and my little sister in the second car behind him, along with spare gear, most of the food, and whatever else we thought we couldn’t live without.

She and dad would set up the tent, and once I was strong enough to help, I’d help pound in tent stakes. We’d get the canopy up over the table in case of rain. And when I was a kid, it rained a lot more than it does now in southern Idaho. At least it seemed to me it did because just about every single camping trip we got rained on.

We used an old gold pan (the type you use when you go panning for gold, not one made of gold) that had it’s bottom sealed as our wash basin. We washed dishes in it. We washed our hands and faces in it. Water was boiled, first on a charcoal grill we packed with us, and then on the Coleman gas grill we started carrying because it was lighter and cheaper to pack around. Cold water was added to make it easier to use for all of us.

Dad would cook, we would eat, mom and I would do the dishes, and then we’d all scatter to do whatever during the day – usually hiking or playing in the river. We always seemed to manage to snag the campground with the path right down to the water. It was my parents’ favorite spot.

At night, after dinner, we’d gather around the fire pit that dad would have lit before dinner, and tended while we ate. It would be just about right. We’d talk for a bit and then dad would break out the makeshift skewers that had been a part of our family for years – wire hangers he’d bent and twisted into long metal rods with a twisted ring and the end that we held. We’d roast marshmallows and talk and laugh. Maegan always took her marshmallows to my mom to eat, and mom would dutifully eat them. After four or five, she’d tell my sister she’d had enough and Maegan would give her skewer to dad, who burnt off the residue and set the skewer aside for the next night.

After thatwe’d light the lamps – kerosene with the little sock like burning wicks – and play cards, Yahtzee, and everything else we could think of. Then I’d read, mom would write (she’s the one who fed my interest in becoming an author), Maegan would be put to bed, and dad would do whatever it was dad did. Sometimes strum on his guitar, before his hands got too bad. Sometimes whittling. Sometimes just sitting back with his feet by the fire pit, watching me and mom.

Then there were the rare times we made it to the coast. Oh, the smiles on my mom’s face when we got to do that. I remember one time, I think I was still in Job Corps but I can’t place what I was doing or when exactly it was for sure – memories being what they are, but I do know it happened because my dad has pictures, we went to the coast while I was living in Washington.

Dad huddled in his windbreaker with the camera while mom, Maegan, and I ran down to the edge of the water. It was a gray, windy day with a light, misting rain. Pretty normal for the coast, actually. We laughed, dug for sand dollars, and just had a great time. Mom’s grin was the biggest as we held up our finds for my dad to take our pictures. She laughed, ran around with me and Maegan, and was so happy. I loved seeing her like that.

A friend of mine, right after mom’s funeral, offered to paint a portrait of my mom from any photograph I could send her (she lived in Australia at the time.) Dad picked one from that trip, with mom laughing and the wind in her hair. I sent it to her, and about 3 months later, we got a package back from Australia. Inside was the photo we’d sent, and an incredibly well done portrait of my mother laughing. My dad kept it up on the wall until he remarried. I’ve told him when he dies I want that picture. He’s agreed I can have it.

He knows I’m not the one most hurt by my mom. My older siblings got that. I’m nine years younger than my next oldest sister and there were three older than me. (It went Clayton – my brother, Melissa – who passed away last year, and Amy – the one who’s closest to me in age among my older siblings…and she’s the one who’s nine years older than me.) But he knows that I bore the brunt of things so my little sister, who wouldn’t have understood any of it, didn’t suffer what I was. He knew I took the abuse my mom would have put on her, which in turn made me a bit of a bully towards Maegan at times because I didn’t think it was fair I had to do this for her, but in the end my protective nature towards my little sister won out and I continued protecting her for as long as I could.

When I moved out for good (or so I thought), when I went to Washington, I was terrified. Not only homesick, but because I was still Maegan’s protector. But at that point I was so lost in my own life, I didn’t realize my mom was already changing. I didn’t know that she was already seeking help, that she’d been reading a lot and had found out that my diagnosis of bipolar (when I was 16 – I was 22 when I went to Washington) was quite possibly her problem too.

My dad told me she found someone who listened to her and started her on a string of medications that at first made it worse, but within six months, they’d gotten her cocktail right and she was a whole new person. She could laugh, live, love, and wasn’t afraid of hurting her children anymore. Unfortunately, cancer took her before we could get to know this new mom better.

The others said their goodbyes but I don’t know that they ever really forgave her. I know they didn’t say that they did, even though she asked them. I was the only one who said I forgave her, though at the time I didn’t know if I really did. I don’t know that I have completely yet, but I am learning to let go of the negative and remember the positive. More and more I’m remembering the laughing, happy woman from my past, and not the abuse I grew up with. My thoughts are no longer focused only on that.

So, once more –

I love you Mom. Happy birthday! I miss you every day.