Friday, May 15, 2015

Tempus Fugit

It's probably the oldest cliche in the book, but time really does fly.  When I first became pregnant, I had many people tell me that time was only going to go by faster, especially once the baby was born...and they were not kidding.  My little boy is now 3 1/2 months old and I'm sitting here thinking back on how my life has changed since having him, and it's all one big blur.  Granted, it's a hormone fueled blur, but one that's full of happiness, tears (of both joy and sadness), sleep deprivation, anticipation, anxiety, and just overall amazement.

Wasn't it only yesterday when we were cautiously putting Spencer into his car seat for the first time, wrapping him up in layer upon layer of warm clothing and blankets to combat the freezing February weather so that we could commence the extra slow and careful mile trek home from the hospital? Those first few hours at home together as a family, without the nurses there for instant support, where we wondered, "What now?" The anxiety of breastfeeding and worrying about not producing enough milk and the anger towards the on-call pediatric nurse who just isn't getting what you are trying to tell her and why you are so upset (because she obviously has never dealt with a first time mother of a newborn before).

It was then that I must have blinked because I went from having this helpless little newborn who spent hours eating and sleeping in my arms, to an infant who still likes to snuggle, but is also trying his best to talk and roll over.  I'm going to have to start drinking even more coffee to ward off taking a nap and waking up to a teenager.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

To Google or not to Google?

While pregnant, the answer to this question is always NOT to Google.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Google, and like most people, I have constant easy access to it whether on my computer at work, my laptop at home, or my cell phone.  Such is the power of The Google.  The problem about Googling things while you're pregnant is that about 85% of the search results are going to be horribly negative and terrifying, even if you are questioning what the significance of a hangnail is during pregnancy.  The answer?  Miscarriage.  Just kidding.  I've never actually Googled that particular thing, and I doubt that miscarriage would be the answer, but you never know.  It's likely not a far-off exaggeration.

One of the most popular Google searches while pregnant often seems to be about spotting.  Let's face it, women in general are kinda nuts (ladies, I'm sorry to call all of us out on this....but admit it, it's the truth!) and pregnant women are about one thousand times worse due to all of those lovely hormones and just the general loss of control over our constantly growing and misshapen bodies.  Of course, one of the biggest fears while pregnant is often about miscarriage, which is a valid concern since it does happen frequently enough that even some doctors might advise their pregnant patients to wait until the first trimester is over before publicly announcing their pregnancy, especially if the woman has any risk factors.  During the first trimester (or 14 weeks) of a pregnancy, there are so many things going on in a woman's body while that little baby develops that it truly is a miracle that so many of us adults actually came out Ok....well, physically anyway!  And in true Darwinism form, generally speaking, if something is going to go wrong while an embryo is developing, it's generally during those first fourteen weeks, since that is when everything is coming together.  A miscarriage is the result of something just not being right,  plain and simple, whether it be with the mother or the baby. Does it make it hurt any less physically or emotionally?  Of course not.  Does is still cause some emotional trauma to the mother?  Definitely.  Being a believer in fate, I like to think that as terrible as it might be for a mother to go through a miscarriage, it happens out of necessity due to something being wrong, and I try to look at that as a silver lining.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who would disagree with me, but this is how I choose to look at the situation.  Granted, I have never experienced a miscarriage personally, so I can't say that I know exactly what women go through when they experience this but it seems to me that as bad of an experience as it might be, having children is often worth it enough for those women to try again and from the women I know who have gone through this, they often go on to have very healthy pregnancies and babies.

Back to Googling and spotting.  For those of you who don't know this, when you're pregnant, your body is pretty much completely out of your control.  It does all kinds of weird and sometimes simultaneously miraculous things on its own and all you can do is sit back and watch.  One of those many things that there is nothing you can about is discharge.  There, I said it.  I apologize if this is a TMI (too much information) topic, but it's real, it happens, and it may be gross but there's no getting around it.  When you first find out you are pregnant, you talk to your doctor, read books, and download all of the free pregnancy apps to your phone that you can.  All of them will tell you the same thing:  Discharge happens, and there's nothing you can do about it aside from keep an eye on the color and even yes, the odor.  Super gross, right?  The best part about all of this is that discharge can happen in a plethora of colors and the only dangerous color you have to be careful of is anything pink to bright red, as that is a sign of fresh blood, which I'm sure you can guess is never a great sign.

During my first trimester, one evening after work, I wiped after going to the bathroom and there was a small/tiny/miniscule single spot of bright red on the toilet paper.  I'm talking a spot the size of the tip of a pen or pencil.  And of course, I completely freaked out and lost my shit.  Full panic mode.  I probably went to the bathroom six times over the next hour and a half, whether or not I actually had to pee, just to see if there was any more red when I wiped.  There was nothing else. Nor did I have any cramping or fever or any other symptom that all of the books and apps warn you about should you see that bright red color ever during your pregnancy.  So, what did I do?  I Googled "bright red spotting while pregnant"...or something to that general effect.  The results:  Terrifying.  Approximately 93% of all of the articles the search pulled up talked about miscarriage and how your baby was basically doomed to die before it even turned into an actual fetus (aka a growing baby, in the womb, that has basically passed the stage where it loses its tail).  Webpage after webpage showed me all of these actual articles, forums, and confessions from other women who all had had spotting that of course always led to miscarriage.  Not one happy ending in the whole bunch.  That does wonders for a panic-stricken, hormonal pregnant woman...let me tell you!  Luckily, I have a husband who is really good at calming me down (even when I can still see the panic in his own eyes) and I have friends who have been-there-done-that who were able to talk me down from my hysteria ledge and somehow, I made it through the night.  By the next day, there had been no additional red spotting and no cramping, and when I called my doctor's office they said that it was very likely just implantation bleeding and that it was likely nothing to worry about.  Just in case, they had me go in for blood work to check my HCG levels (a pregnancy hormone that drastically increases during the first few months of pregnancy and dropping levels of HCG early on can indicate a miscarriage) and they had me go on pelvic rest (no sex, no heavy lifting, and no overly strenuous tasks) for two weeks.  And, spoiler warning, everything turned out fine.  It very likely was just what the doctors assumed it was and I was left feeling a little foolish for having freaked out as badly as I did.  But hey, it's my first time being pregnant (which is terrifying all in its own right) and having so many new and powerful hormones is like adding fuel to a bonfire, so I pretty much had no choice in the matter.  And no, even now I don't feel foolish about it.  Well....not really.

I'm not telling you this little story as an anti-Google anecdote nor am I saying no one should ever Google again, I'm just saying that The Google is a very powerful tool that can easily get out of hand for us preggos.  While pregnant, my natural inclination has been to Google EVERYTHING because there is just so much to learn and know about being pregnant: "Is this normal?  What will happen if I do this while pregnant?  Is it safe to eat this while pregnant?" etc.  We are naturally inquisitive creatures and The Google just makes obtaining answers so easy.  It's quite addicting.  But again, you have to be careful of its power while pregnant because of course you are going to see a lot of the bad with the good, and that's something that you can't always prepare for, no matter how in charge you think you are of your pregnant mind (hint're not!).

Moral of this story:  The Google is awesome.....unless you're pregnant!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Annnnnnd......I'm back!

Have you missed me?  I knew that I hadn't written anything in a long time, but what I didn't realize that it has been almost TWO YEARS since I last wrote/published a post here.  How is that even possible?  

I think a large part of that reason is due to the fact that I had met a bit of a stalemate with my weight loss and wasn't feeling overly insightful.  Everyone who has battled weight loss can tell you that hitting a plateau is incredibly frustrating and it can be very difficult to not succumb to the woe-is-me feelings and give in to that extra piece of candy or slice of cake, thus irrevocably setting yourself up to only go backwards.  That's where I was.  

After losing 170 pounds, which even I can admit is an incredible feat, my weight loss just started to slow down and then eventually stabilized.  Luckily, I did not start gaining weight back and I was able to maintain, but that's never enough, especially when there are so many of those little pesky pounds yet to lose.  And that depressed me.  As much as I love to write, I just didn't feel like it and considering the fact that the name of this blog is Danielle, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, how could I write about a woman who was no longer shrinking?  

The funny thing is that currently, I still have mostly maintained my weight and many of those pesky pounds remain with me (apparently I'm a great person to hold on to!).  Although one might think that this fact would upset me, I'm actually OK with it because I learned something very positive about hitting a plateau after major weight loss.  Your body goes through so much physically when you lose such a large amount of weight, and it takes time for everything to get caught up, and that includes things like hormones.  Who'da thunk it?  I never really gave it too much thought, despite the fact that I have PCOS; maybe I should have because it turns out the positive thing about going through a plateau phase after significant weight loss is that it gives your body an easier (generally) ability to get pregnant.  And that's exactly what I am!  

So, stay tuned because I've been feeling a little more creative again these days and there are always fun and exciting (and gross!) things to share about pregnancy. Just you wait! And who knows, maybe I'll become one of those famous mom bloggers and I will be able to not only entertain you all, but also share my newly found abundance of child-rearing wisdom.  You lucky readers you!  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What I Learned While Planning My Wedding

It has been an unbelievably long time since I last wrote a post for my blog, and to be honest, I haven't even gone anywhere near my blog page in at least five months.  For those of you who don't know, I got married on October 6th to my husband (I still love saying that!) Roland, and with all of the planning beforehand and with my stress levels consistently staying above average while making sure everything got done, I'm sorry to say that the last thing I had time for was to sit down and write about my life.  But here we are now; it's a mere three days until the new year and I'm enjoying the last few days of my break before returning back to work and the day-to-day life and I thought there was no better time than now to sit here, on this cold and snowy evening, and write down a few things. 

I have no idea what these first few posts I send out will be about, since it has been so much time that I feel like there are so many things to catch up on; so please bear with me as I try to get myself back into the groove of writing again.  I do feel that the cliche really is true about losing it if you don't use it; I haven't written like this in MONTHS and I'm definitely feeling a tad rusty. That's why I'm starting off my first post with an easy one:  Things I learned while planning my wedding.  I'm sure those of you who are married will already know most of these things and shake your head and nod your approval during the appropriate times, and for those of you who are not married yet (and especially for those of you thinking of getting married in the not-too-distant future) you might want to pay attention here.  I'm not saying that everything I went through will be the same for you, and in some cases, I hope that we don't have a lot of similarities, but these might just be things for you to keep in mind while you try to plan your perfect day.  :)

1.  Things rarely go exactly according to plan - both in the wedding planning and on the actual day itself.  (Note:  This can be both a positive and/or a negative, depending of course on what the actual plans were)

2.  No matter how good you are at time management, there will never be enough time in the day to get everything done that you want to do, especially in the last few weeks before the wedding.  For myself personally, this meant staying up too late trying to cram everything in which resulted in less sleep which of course then meant dark shadows under my eyes; not exactly the kind of look you want on your wedding day.

3.  Unless you are independently wealthy or have really rich parents or a hefty trust fund, you are going to spend a LOT of money on this wedding. You can budget until the cows come home, but there will always be extra and added expenses that you might not have ever foreseen...even for a small to medium sized wedding.

4.  Looking at and finding THE venue can actually be fun.  A lot of places may look great online or in pictures but could be completely different in person, so it's important to look at as many as you can until you are comfortable that what you have found is the perfect one for you and your bride/groom-to-be.

5.  Sleep will become a thing of the past, particularly in the last two months prior to the wedding.  Being my own wedding planner was definitely a money saver, but it also meant that at any point in time, I had about a million different things on my mind pertaining to the wedding.  This was especially true at night while I was trying to sleep.  No matter how many times I attempted to clear my mind before going to bed, without fail, the minute my head hit the pillow and my eyes closed, the thoughts would start; thoughts about what I had done that day, what I still needed to do, who I needed to call, what I needed to buy and order, etc.  Even when I would finally fall asleep, I would only stay that way for a few hours before waking up again.  I can honestly say that in the last six weeks before the wedding, there was not one night that I actually slept well.  And that is very likely connected to and brings me to....

6.  At some point during your wedding planning, you will feel like you are going bat-shit crazy (that's a technical term).  As I mentioned, I'm sure my time in Loco Town had a lot to do with the fact that I was barely sleeping, and sleep deprivation can make anyone go crazy, let alone a bride-to-be.  So, just try to remember that even though you may in fact feel nuttier than squirrel poop (and at times you actually may be!) it will pass and every bride before and after you will go through the exact same thing (and usually there aren't many people hurt in the process).   ;)

7.  Wedding planning will only confirm how wonderful and supportive your fiance is.  While you are stressed and sleep deprived and at times just downright bitchy (I'm speaking from very personal experience here), having your fiance be there by your side through it all, supporting you, loving you, crying with you and offering an ear for general venting and frustration, is what it all comes down to.  I knew I wanted to marry Roland from the very beginning, but it was during all of the wedding planning when I truly fully appreciated how amazing he is and what he puts up with for my sake.

8.  It's a cliche, but it's true; weddings will bring out the absolute worst or best in people.  It's not uncommon for the people you thought to be the most helpful in planning to fall by the wayside, all while the people you expected little to nothing from step up in ways you never thought imaginable.  You will definitely be surprised, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. 

9.  There will be at least one person who it will seem like is just trying to do nothing but make you miserable while you are trying to get ready for your special day.  I sincerely hope that this is just something that I had to go through and that the rest of you reading this are not surrounded by such incredibly selfish people, but I feel it's important to alert you to this possibility.  I'm not at all surprised at how this particular person in my life acted and treated me, since this person is just incredibly unhappy in their own life and feels the need to bring that same unhappiness down on others where they can, but it was still disheartening to have to go through it during what was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life. 

10.  When you are the bride, planning a wedding without your mom is REALLY difficult.  I knew it was going to be hard and I tried to prepare myself as best as I could for certain situations, but it wasn't easy.  Preparing for a wedding is a classic mother daughter activity, and one that I'm sure almost every mother and daughter looks forward to sharing together.  I know my mom was with me in spirit and I felt her with me that whole day, but of course it doesn't compare to having her there with me, both on the wedding day and all of the days planning and leading up to the wedding.

11.  It's very important to surround yourself with good friends and family and make sure you have as many girl nights, game nights, or just sitting around the house laughing and having fun nights as you can.  This may be something you incorporate into your daily life already, but it is doubly important while you are planning a wedding because it does help keep you sane and your stress levels lowered. 

12.  Keeping active and working out can be a lifesaver.  I know most brides are all about fitness and looking perfect in their wedding dress, and although that most certainly is important, the other great thing about making sure you make fitness time for yourself is because it does help clear your mind and keep you calm.  Even if it's just taking the dog for a long walk, it's time that is spent outside in the fresh air with your muscles moving and your adrenaline and endorphins pumping; it lowers your stress, makes you feel better about yourself, and all while helping you get wedding-dress-ready!

13.  On the actual day of your wedding, it is very likely that something (hopefully minor) will go wrong.  The best advice I was given prior to my wedding was that even if something went wrong during the actual ceremony or during any of the traditional wedding events, the only people likely to know exactly what went wrong, are the bride and groom; no one else will know.  I am so glad that I was told this ahead of time as our DJ (who was incredibly unprofessional and lacking in so many ways) managed to royally screw up Roland and my first dance song (he neglected to let us know that he never found the version of the song we wanted that I had told him about with plenty of time in advance to the wedding).  As upset as Roland and I both were, we realized after the fact that no one else (aside from a couple people in our wedding party) knew what had even happened and just thought that the way things went was the way things were supposed to go.  Roland and I tried our best to laugh it off and even though it didn't happen until the night was almost over, we did at least get to dance to our song. 

14.  Despite everything I just mentioned about our problem with the DJ and our first song, one of the best moments of the wedding day is during your first dance as husband and wife.  At that point, the ceremony is over (which is the hard part), the pictures have been taken, your guests are all happily snacking and drinking while watching you and taking tons of pictures, and yet as you dance together (hopefully to the song of your choice lol) it's like you are the only two people in the world.  Being someone who has been overweight my whole life, I do tend to get nervous at times when all eyes are on me; it's an insecurity due to being self-conscious about how I look and what I'm doing, and yet I can honestly say that while I was dancing with Roland for the first time, he was the only person in the whole room who had my attention.  For the first time in my life, I wasn't worried about what I looked like, if my dress flattered my body shape, if my cheeks were too rosy, if my arms or other body parts looked too fat, and that was all because I could only see Roland and how amazingly happy and handsome he looked.

15.  Everyone will tell you that your wedding day will be over in the blink of an eye...and they are not kidding!  It's like  Christmas; so many months and so much money and energy spent planning for this one major day, and it feels like it's over before it even begins.  Make sure that at a few points during your wedding, you take the time to just look around and take stock in everything you have done to get you to that point; take a breath and watch your wedding party dance together, see your parents and your groom's parents happily chatting and enjoying each others company, and feel your new husband's hand in yours as you listen to the speeches, cut the cake, and dance over and over again together throughout the night. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pinterest Obsession

So, yet again, more time has passed than anticipated between my posts.  I'm happy to report that my mood has definitely improved since my last post and I'm not feeling so down in the dumps.  I really hate when I get like that, but unfortunately, there's not a whole lot I can do about it aside from hanging on for the ride and just going with the flow.  Sometimes I can expect to feel down at certain times of the year, due to some connection with my mom, but then there are other times when feelings can just hit me completely out of the blue, and those are the ones that are hardest to deal with, because I don't see them coming and I have limited control over how long they last.  I guess it's just all part of the grieving process, or so I've heard.  I have read too many blogs, especially many focused on weight loss, that have an overall sad feeling, and I don't want my blog to be one of those. I'm generally a pretty happy and upbeat person and I have been told that my personality often comes through in my posts, which honestly, makes me glad. However, because I do still have my down days (like any person), and because depression is a side-effect of having weight loss surgery, I suppose it's to be expected.  Which means, you are all at my mercy and will have to suffer along with me!  Bwa-ha-ha-ha!  <-- Super evil laugh

I wish I could say that the reason why I haven't been writing as much is due to the fact that I've been jet-setting all over the country and world; seeing fabulous new places and lounging on exotic beaches, but unfortunately, that's not the truth.  The main reason I have been absent is because when I'm not working, and even sometimes when I am working (sorry to any of my bosses who might be reading this! LOL) I have been trying to get my wedding details under control.  We just passed the 4 month mark in the countdown and even though I'm in a good place, I'm still freaking out a little bit.  Luckily, I have pretty much all of the major things underway.  Most of the deposits have been put down and overall ideas have been discussed, but now we are getting into the nitty-gritty of everything.  It's nice to know that I have the really big things under control, however, I didn't realize how many little details there actually are that need to be taken care of.  The good thing is that for the wedding, along with obviously celebrating our marriage, we are also focusing on just having a good time with friends and family, so we really aren't going overboard with anything, yet sometimes it can still all be pretty overwhelming.  Luckily though, I'm surrounded by good friends, some who are in my wedding party and some who aren't, who offer a great support system and have all gone above and beyond to make me realize that I need to take time to step back and relax.  That, and I recently saw this fantastic movie:

The Avengers...which happens to have my boyfriend in it....

Thor....aka Chris Hemsworth....aka The God of Sexy


I'm sorry...what was I saying?  Oh yeah, things that have been occupying my time.  :)

I think one of the scariest things about the wedding being so close is how expensive everything is.  My fiance and I are on a pretty strict budget and are definitely people who live paycheck to paycheck, which means that finding the money needed to pay for everything can be a little daunting at times.  We are lucky though because not only are our parents helping us out however they can (both financially and emotionally), but also one of the good things about working in the field that I do (Education) is that I work predominantly with women, which means I get a lot of suggestions and ideas on how best to have a wedding while on a budget, along with numerous ways to cut corners and costs.  I even have three different coworkers who are actually going to play very significant parts in my wedding:  Pat will be our officiant/wedding choreographer/vow writing helper, Pam is making all 200 of our pumpkin cupcakes, and Dave will be the DJ.  How can the Big Day go wrong with so many great people helping me out?  It's a good feeling to personally know many of the people I will be working with for the wedding, and I haven't even listed them all here, because I know that these people will have my desires and happiness at heart and will therefore be there to help me every step of the way.  That is definitely a good feeling. 

And while speaking of the wedding, have any of you checked out yet?  If you haven't, you need to, like now.  It's an amazing website that basically helps you organize and plan your entire life...and who doesn't need that?  I was first introduced to it by a friend who told me I "needed" to use it in order to help me plan my wedding and how she wished it was around when she got married.  I can use all the help I can get, so I checked it out and have been hooked ever since.  I started off creating a "board" for just wedding ideas and bouquet samples and now, less than a year later, I have 33 boards and 2,281 pins!  I think I'm an addict!  Each pin is basically a picture and a link to a website for all kinds of different ideas; some may be for wedding gowns, some for recipes, some for do-it-yourself crafts, and some are just for fashion and jewelry.  There's literally something for everyone and it's an easy way to sit down at your computer and have 2 hours pass by without your even knowing it because you're just so entranced by all the possibilities at your fingertips.  I have found a lot of ideas for my wedding on this site and what's great is that people will also post all of kinds of helpful suggestion pins too:

This pin is a collage of ideas for a fall wedding

This pin showcases the Bridal Emergency Kit, for all things needed by a bride on her wedding day.  A must-have for all Maids of  Honor

And this one is the unfortunate sad reality lol 

I could have easily showcased MANY more pins here, but I think you should all just go check the site out for yourselves.  I warn you, it can be a *tad* overwhelming at first, and it can take a while to get the hang of everything, but it's worth figuring out; I promise!  And for those of you who might be wondering why I'm pushing Pinterest on you, no, it's not because I have stock in them or have recently started doing web work for them lol, they are simply a great website that I'm totally in love with, and I am a firm believer of passing good things on to other people.'re welcome!  :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

A little of this, and a little of that...

I need to apologize in advance for the winding and sordid path that will be this blog post. Although it's true that life has been a bit overwhelming for me these last few weeks, which is a partial reason why it has taken me a while to find the time to write, the other reason is that I have been having trouble thinking of what to write about.  As much as I love writing this blog, it can be difficult at times to figure out what exactly to write actuality, the fact that it's hard to sort through all the jumbles of thoughts and ideas that are bouncing around inside my head at any given point in time.  I suppose I could just make shorter blog posts more frequently, enabling myself to maintain a better track record here, but that just seems the easy way out, and I like a challenge!  Besides, what would happen if I posted more regularly and it turned out that all of you started to get sick of me?  What would I do then? No, I think it's better the way we've been going.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, no?

In a few days it will mark the seventh month since I've had my surgery.  I have now lost about 130 pounds, but I still have a lot more to go.  My weight loss has definitely plateaued at this point, and I find myself feeling anxious about getting it jump started again.  For the first four to five months, all I had to do was wake up each day and I would lose weight.  No real effort on my part was really required.  I ate the foods that I was supposed to eat (mostly) and exercised here and there, and the weight literally just fell right off me.  Since hitting the six month mark, things have become a little more difficult.  I am still losing weight, but it is at a much slower rate and I find that I am now at the point where I really need to focus and use my surgery as the tool it was meant to be.  Because of the surgery, I still need to eat slowly and even then I can only eat so much at a time, but this is where using the tool comes into play. 

Prior to having the surgery, I tried repeatedly to lose weight by using that old stand-by of eating healthy and exercising more often.  The exercising was difficult because I was so heavy that not only did I not have any energy by the time I got home each night, I also found even the most mundane exercises to be taxing at times.  I would walk the dogs but could easily get winded and riding our exercise bike was better than nothing, but it never really felt like I was really working out since I never really felt like it got my heart rate up, and I'm a firm believer that you're not getting a good workout unless you're hot and sweaty.  It might sound gross, but it's the truth, and the bike definitely wasn't doing it for me.  So, exercise was hit or miss.  I often tried to compensate for that by eating better, but the problem was that I could bring veggies to work with me every day with the great intentions of only eating those for lunch, but the reality was that they wouldn't fill me up and/or would make me hungry again only an hour or two later, which often resulted in my snacking on something or having a second helping at dinner, both of which derailed whatever progress I made by eating the veggies in the first place.  This is where using the surgery as a tool comes in.  Since having the surgery, my stomach can only hold so much food at a time, which means that not only can I bring a sandwich bag full of veggies for lunch that will fill me up, I will also stay full longer, meaning not as many desires to snack in the afternoon.  The great thing about that too is that when I eat mainly veggies for lunch and limit my carb/starch intake, I find that I'm not as likely to crash when 4:00 comes around, which means that by the time I get home at 6:00 I don't feel like a zombie and have an easier time jumping right on the elliptical or taking the dogs for a mile and a half walk.  And of course, being pretty much a whole person lighter than I was seven months ago doesn't hurt either! 

I will admit that it's a good feeling to know that I'm learning how to work with the surgery to make better choices for myself, because these are choices that are going to be lifelong.  However, even though I know I'm making these good choices and can feel a certain pride about that, it sometimes only adds to the anxiety I currently have about being stuck at my current weight. I have had to work hard to lose these last ten pounds, and I've been stuck near the 130 mark now for a couple of weeks.  I know it's common to plateau during any weight loss regimen and it's a difficult time because when you don't constantly see those numbers on the scale decrease, it gives you stress and anxiety...and what happens when you're an emotional eater?  You eat when you have stress and anxiety.  I've been doing better with this, and I know that I will get past this plateau point eventually, but I know I have had probably more than my fair share of cheat days these last couple weeks.  Nothing way overboard, but I have allowed myself dessert more frequently throughout the week, which is something I try to only limit to the weekends, and preferably only one day a week at that.  The worst part is that even though I always felt guilty before the surgery about having too many cheat days, now I feel even worse about it, and I think it's because I have come so far.  Maybe I expected that once I lost all this weight I would be a different person who would be stronger and capable of making better choices overall and all the time...but that doesn't seem to be happening.  I'm still me and I still have the same struggles, the only difference is that now I have had some success and need to make a stronger effort to keep that success in mind and not let myself slip into old, bad habits.

Did I mention the fact that my hair has been falling out?  That's another anxiety I have been dealing with for the past 6 weeks or so.  Generally, around the sixth month after surgery, your hair starts to fall out, which I believe is mainly due to your body attempting to maintain itself with the probable lesser amount of protein that you are now consuming and/or digesting.  Because I had the gastric bypass surgery, my intestines have been partially rerouted, which means that I no longer digest many things the way I used to, including vitamins and other good for me things.  Since my body is likely not absorbing the same amount of protein it was used to prior to my surgery, it is now compensating by making me shed like crazy...which to be honest, is something I never had a problem with anyway.  The surgeon told me it would only be temporary, but I'm not sure how long "temporary" really is, or maybe he and I have a different meaning of the word "temporary".  At this point, I know that temporary definitely means longer than days and weeks, and I am at the verge of knowing that it also means longer than months...I'm hoping my knowledge will stop there.  I don't think the surgeon would lie to me, but it's hard to keep that in mind when I see the large clumps of hair in the drain every time I take a shower.  Let's just say it's a little unsettling.  To help compensate for the  hair loss, I am taking a supplement called Biotin on a daily basis.  It helps support metabolism but is primarily used for nail and hair growth.  I take it every day without fail, and I can admit that it has definitely sped up the growing process for my hair and nails.  My hair seems to get longer by the day (which is good considering I want to grow it out for my wedding in October) and I find that I can barely keep up with how fast my nails grow...and yet my hair is still falling out on a very routine basis.  It's kind of funny actually in that my hair is growing very quickly while it is also falling out very quickly, so somehow these two things seem to help balance each other out.  Mind you, I would much prefer to just have the growing quicker part and cease the falling out part, but at least the Biotin has (so far) stopped me from having any major bald spots (at least that I'm aware of!).  My hair is noticeably thinner than it used to be and I long for the day when I can wear my hair down without having to pull off random hair strands constantly throughout the day, but  until then, I have to remind myself that I have to take the good with the bad.  I might not be happy about my rapidly thinning hair, but it's a small price to pay for losing as much weight as I have and making myself healthier overall. 

Another contributing factor to my overall stress and general difficulty finding the time to write posts for this blog is that I have also been suffering with bouts of depression on and off for the last month or so.  My body is still going through a lot of changes, which I'm sure plays a part on my emotional well being, but there is also the stress of wedding planning, everyday financial woes, finalizing my mom's estate, and generally just missing her like crazy.  The financial woes are nothing new and will likely remain for quite some time to come, but I, like probably most people, am looking forward to the day when I will not have so many debts hanging over my head.  I have already come to the realization that I will be paying off my student loans for the next 20 years, so that isn't going anywhere, plus I have a car loan and past credit problems that continue to haunt me, and I don't even want to think about what will happen when someday Roland and I are ready to own a house.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Roland and I will ever be able to be completely debt free since we are your typical middle-class couple who make OK money to get by, but really don't have a lot on the side to do anything extravagant with.  We still live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes have to be creative when paying bills in order to make sure everything gets covered.  We get by though and as I said, it's not something that will be fixed anytime soon, but still, it would be nice to not have to worry about it so constantly.  I'm sure that's a concept that's nothing new to most of you out there reading this right now. 

Usually I try not to let money worries get me down, but that is difficult while trying to plan a wedding.  It's amazing to me how expensive weddings are and I have no idea how so many people can afford to have such elegant and over the top weddings when we are just going to be scraping by on a very meager budget.  I am very lucky in that I have a lot of very wonderful people around me who will be helping me in numerous ways for this wedding.  I am getting a discounted rate on my DJ, cupcakes, photographer, and printing costs, plus I have friends who are constantly on the lookout for ways of doing traditional wedding trends at do-it-yourself prices, which I am incredibly thankful for.  Overall, I'm going to be able to have this wedding without completely breaking the bank, but it's still difficult to not worry about all the money adding up that is needed to pay for everything...and the one major thing I have learned about weddings is that there is always something else that is going to come up that will require money that you either forgot or didn't even know about.  I'm trying desperately to focus on the good aspects and just enjoy planning the wedding and using my creativity to make this day really be all about what is important to Roland and I...but again, money has a way of interfering even with that at times.

The hardest part out of everything though is that as happy as I am to be getting married to my best friend in a mere five months, the closer I get to my wedding day, the more I miss my mom.  Weddings are always showcased as a time when mothers and daughters come together to do all the planning and pick out the wedding dress and set up the bridal showers, and I never expected to have to do all of this without my mom.  I feel very blessed that I have a really great relationship with Roland's mom and I have been warmly welcomed into their family and am glad to have them all with us on our big day, but it's still hard to not have my mom here.  It's especially hard when today would have been her 55th birthday and Mother's Day is just around the corner.  This is a difficult time of year for me in general, but this year it seems even more intense due to the fact that I'm missing her while also trying to plan a wedding that she was supposed to be here to help me with.  Knowing that with her birthday and Mother's Day approaching I would likely have more than my usual amount of down days, it still doesn't prepare me for when the down days really hit, especially since they don't often come when I expect them to.  You would think that with the amount of grief suffered in this world on such a frequent basis, we, as people in general, would be able to better prepare for and deal with grief once it hits. This is not true.  No matter how much you think you are prepared for it, grief can catch you completely unprepared and kick you in the ass.  I think about my mom multiple times every single day, and although it's still easy for me to feel overcome by sadness, I'm also slowly learning how to think of her and the happy times we shared, without having the memories altered by feelings of sadness or anger.  It's not easy, and in all honesty, I remember her with tears more often than I do with a smile, but as time progresses it does get a little easier....albeit very slowly.  I would give anything to have my mom here with me right now, as I get ready to try on wedding dresses and write my vows, but since having her here with me in spirit is the closest I'm going to get, I'll have to accept that and know she is with me and guiding me along the way

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going Beyond the Physical

I often find myself wondering what my beliefs are when it comes to the supernatural, specifically things like ghosts and spirits.  Living in Salem, MA (the Witch City) it's kind of hard not to think about these things since our whole town's claim to fame lies in the hands of dead witches who supposedly haunt these streets on a daily basis.  We all know people who have stories of growing up in haunted houses, people who have seen ghosts wandering the halls of their work place at night, or we have known someone who had a friend whose uncle's girlfriend's sister did a seance in her house and now every time she lights a candle the radio turns on.  But how do we know if these stories are true or if we just WANT them to be true? 

Being someone who is generally pretty open minded, I often tend to lean towards believing in all of these unexplained phenomena.  I have had my fair share of palm readings, Tarot card readings, Ouija Board fun, and have even been to see some mediums.  I figured the best way to look at each event was to approach it with the idea that the main reason for my being there was for entertainment purposes, and anything else that might happen would just be an unexpected bonus.  This was specifically the feeling I tried to hold onto when I recently went with some friends to Regina Russel's Tea Room in Quincy, MA.  Regina's offers a variety of different readings and I had been there once before, back when I was still in high school, for a relatively unsatisfying Tarot card reading.  The woman who performed my reading certainly knew her cards and was obviously a very skilled people-reader, but I'm sorry to say that her days of being some kind of prophet seemed numbered.  I remember walking out of my appointment feeling slightly entertained, somewhat curious, and mostly disappointed.  It was because of this reading that I was hesitant at first to return to Regina Russel's, but again, I took to mind that as long as I went into the reading thinking it was mainly for entertainment purposes only, I hopefully wouldn't leave feeling disappointed again...especially since this time I had opted for a spirit reading. 

The difference between your average run-of-the-mill Tarot card reading and a spirit reading is that instead of sitting across from someone who is only a few steps up from saying "Pick a card!  Any card!" is that you are instead shut into a small room with a person who is supposedly going to be speaking to someone beyond the grave.  Spooky, right?  I had never had a one-on-one spirit reading before, so I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect and I would be lying if I were to say I didn't go into this appointment hoping against hope to be able to connect with my mother. 

When it was time for my appointment, I was taken away from my friends in the waiting room and told to follow a somewhat frazzled looking woman into a tiny room off a back hallway that was furnished with only one small table and two chairs.  If there hadn't been a window in there I would have sworn we were about to play Seven Minutes in Heaven in Regina's closet!  Because I was only paying for a 15 minute reading, the woman basically got started the minute we entered the room.  She asked me to sit down and to let her know if there was anyone specific I was hoping to contact that day.  Being a little skeptical, and almost biting my tongue to keep from shouting out "My mom!", I remained calm and told her that I was just curious to see if there was anyone out there, you know, beyond the grave, who was trying to get in touch with me.  I half expected the woman to sit down across from me and hold my hand on the top of the small, wooden table, but instead she put her little purse down, removed the hair clip that was barely containing her frizzy hair, and crossed her arms over her chest and started pacing back and forth in the tiny room.  I wouldn't go so far as to say it looked like she was having some kind of fit, but I do remember thinking that if all I was paying for and expecting was entertainment, it seemed like this woman was going to earn her money, and then some. 

She started off by saying that she could see/sense five different spirits around me.  This was a little shocking, considering there were only three deceased people in my family whom I was close enough to that would make me think they would want to hang around me in their afterlife, but again, trying to remain passive, I kept quiet and let her continue.  She told me that they might be spirits of people I'm familiar with, or they could just be some random spirits flocking to me, since apparently I am very intuitive and open, which creates a sort of magnet approach for these kinds of spirits.  I was starting to feel a little like the Pied Piper. 

The first spirit who reached out to her was a heavyset woman of average height, probably middle aged, whom she thought was a teacher.  This immediately got my attention (although I'm proud to say that I was able to continue keeping a blank face) due to the fact that all of those descriptors could have been about my mom.  Again, I didn't want to say anything because I wanted this experience to be as "real" as possible and I felt that if this woman could see the hope written all over my face, she would mark me as an easy target and basically spoon-feed me anything she wanted.  I think I replied with a generic "Oh, really?" and she went on to say that she just kept getting a teacher vibe but nothing else really seemed to be coming through.  I was glad that I was able to keep my composure because I figured that if my mom's spirit really was going to try to contact me, she probably wouldn't have just said, "I'm a teacher" and then stopped talking.  I would like to think that she might have been able to offer a few more facts about herself and/or our relationship, so when this teacher person moved on and stopped trying to communicate with me, I didn't feel rejected or even upset. Although I have to be honest, I am curious if there might be a past teacher of mine who might have died who for whatever reason felt the need to hang around and visit me. 

I wasn't able to get much information about the next spirit who came to contact me.  The medium started off by asking if there was someone in my life named Danny; that just so happens to be my father's name.  She said that the spirit who was coming through was doing so from Danny's side and that he had a message for Danny, which would make sense as Danny's father (my grandfather) died when I was five.  I was desperately hoping the message would be something along the lines of, "Tell him to grow up and get his act together!" but unfortunately that wasn't the case lol.  She said the spirit was telling her that Danny is in the process of looking for a new job (which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone in my family as Danny changes jobs more frequently than most people change their underwear) and that he should continue looking because he will have his new job by the end of 2012.  I wonder if I should let my uncles know that they might need to be replacing him soon in the family business?  Nah...I'm sure that knowing him, they already have a back-up ready and waiting! 

The next spirit came through quickly after that and the medium asked me if I was close to someone named Jenny.  I told her that I have a friend named Jen and she confirmed that yes, that was who this particular spirit was referencing.  She told me the spirit coming through was an older woman, "a grandmother type" and that she had been trying to get in touch with Jen for quite some time.  Apparently Jen has a similar energy to me in that her aura is welcoming to spirits, but for some reason, Jen is a little more closed off than I am, therefore making it harder for spirits to connect with her.  The medium asked if it had been a while since I last saw Jen and I confirmed that it had been, since I don't think I had seen her since Christmas.  The spirit then asked if I would bring a message to Jenny; she wanted Jen to know that whatever it is that Jen has been struggling with, that it will get better and should have resolved itself by this summer.  The spirit was very concerned about making sure Jen doesn't shut down from anyone close to her or shut out the people around her, as they will help her come to her decision.  At this point I'm thinking to myself, "What the hell is going on with Jen?" but then the spirit seemed to fade, having already given me the message.  What was interesting about this particular experience was that my friend Jen is only called Jenny by her grandparents and aunts and uncles on that particular side of her family.  No one else calls her that.  Also, my friends and I were actually going to Jen's house after our readings, which again, would be the first time I was seeing Jen since Christmas.  Obviously there is no hardcore evidence here, and even though I did my job and passed the message on to Jen, I still don't know if there really is some kind of internal struggle going on with Jen that she has been battling.  I do think the coincidences are a little interesting though.

At that point in my reading, the medium was no longer pacing back and forth in the room, she was in fact sitting across the little table from me and tended to lean back against the wall with her arms folded across her chest and her eyes closed while she communicated with the spirits.  No other spirits seemed to be jumping out to connect with me, so she asked if there was anyone specific I wanted to try to get in touch with.  I figured it was now or never to mention my mom, so I did so and she asked me for my mom's name.  Once I told her, she put her head down on the table and just kind of rocked her head back and forth a little bit.  (Again, even if I left with no actual spirit connections, this woman was good at making these communications seem interesting at least!)  She seemed to connect with my mom pretty quickly and said that my mom loved me, was very proud of me, and that I am stronger than I think I am.  At this point, I think it's important to note that no matter how much of what the medium had just told me was "stock response", meaning that she could have been saying those things to any daughter, son or loved one from a spirit, and that even though the skeptic in me knew there was a good chance these were just generic words, it still did not stop me one bit from crying right there in that little closet. 

The medium then went on to say that my mom was glad that everyone had received all of her belongings that they wanted and she wanted to thank me for making sure that was all done the way she would have wanted.  (Interesting side note:  I am the executor for my mom's estate and have been in charge of not only figuring out who gets what as far as materialistic things, but I also am the one who writes out the checks to distribute any money left in my mom's estate after all the bills are paid off).  Then the medium told me that my mom was worried about my sister since she tends to close down and bottle everything up inside herself.  She said she wants my sister to try to open up more and let people into her life easier.  This is something we have been trying to get my sister to do for years, so maybe the 23rd time's a charm, right Em?  ;)  Next she told me that my mom was very happy that I am with Roland and that she knows he will always take good care of me.  The medium then asked if I have any children yet and I told her no.  Her response was, "Well, then you will!"  She said that my mom told her I am going to have a daughter of my own and that my mom has already met the spirit that will become my daughter and that when she is born she will have my mother's eyes.  I will admit that this hit a certain spot in my heart, because as corny and hokey as this may sound, I have always felt that I am destined to have a daughter, even though I went through stages in my life where I wasn't even sure I wanted to have children.  It's just this feeling that I have, almost like a knowing, that I am meant to be a mom and that I will have at least one daughter to whom I will be very close.  Obviously the medium could have told all of this to anyone, as it wasn't very specific to myself or my mom, but still, hearing the words was enough to strike a chord in me and touch me in a very special way.  Even if it's not true, is it bad or wrong to think that my mom's spirit and my future daughter's spirit have already met and connected on some level?  Especially considering the fact that they will obviously never get to meet here on Earth?

At this point in the reading, someone walked by and knocked on our door to let the medium know that our fifteen minutes were just about up.  Kind of like Last Call at the spirit bar.  The medium then asked me if I had any questions for my mom before we ended the session.  I was honestly still reeling from the whole experience and hadn't thought of any specific questions to ask beforehand, so the first one that came to mind was to ask if my mom had any regrets.  The medium put her head down again and told me that my mom did regret all of the arguments we had had over the years and the time and energy we each spent being mad at each other.  She said my mom was sorry for letting things go on the way they did at times and she wished she had let more things go.  The medium also said (repeatedly) that my mom was sorry that her body just couldn't keep up with her.  She said that my mom was fighting right up until the end but that her body just wasn't strong enough to hold on.  The word "cancer" was never mentioned by either myself or the medium, but it hung in the air like the dark cloud that it is.  Tears once again stung my eyes as memories surfaced of the last night I saw my mom, and how I watched her body bring forth its last remaining option of having to shut itself down.

As a means of attempting to complete the session and probably lighten the mood and end things on a higher note, the medium told me that my mom will often hide my keys from me as a way to get me to slow down and enjoy life more often.  She also said that when my mom is near me, she frequently flickers the lights to get my attention and let me know she is near. 

I thanked the medium, wiped my eyes one last time, and went out into the lobby to join my friends and discuss all of our sessions.  There were four of us that had readings done that day, and I can honestly say that out of the four readings, mine seemed to be the most accurate.  Even to this day, weeks after the spirit reading occurred, I still can't say with 100% certainty that I believe everything the medium told me.  I have gone over and over everything she said to me and have thought about how I acted in the session or if I gave anything away by my facial expressions; things that would have encouraged the medium to react to me in certain ways, but unfortunately I will never know.  I do know that I still believe in ghosts and spirits and I do believe in the possibility that there are people out there who are capable of speaking to these spirits, and maybe the medium was able to talk to my mom, but maybe she wasn't.  This is where I have to remember that my main goal for going to the medium was for entertainment purposes, and anything else I got from the experience was a bonus.  I can admit that I never actually do lose my keys, however, I find it to be a weird coincidence that since having my spirit reading, there have been a lot of different lights flickering on and off in my presence.