Friday, July 27, 2007

Still here

Okay, so I wasn't quite back from the alternate universe.

It's been a rough couple of weeks for me on an emotional level as I've continued to deal with a bit of depression; enough so that my doctor increased my medication for the first time.  I'm hoping I can take the dosage back down again eventually, but after being in a fog for two weeks, I'm going to take that slowly.

I had an uneventful birthday this week...blah.  The Brit was away for it in New York and the kids weren't aware of it until my mother told them and other than going to my mother's for dinner, the day was no different from any other day.  I tried to insist two years ago that I was finished with birthdays, but no one really listened to me, though it came close this year.

The Brit came home on Wednesday and it has been nice to have him back for a few days before he is off again for a week on Monday.  He is taking me out tomorrow night for a late birthday celebration and we are heading down toward Baltimore.

Yes, this is the most boring blog post in the world, but I'll need to get back into it slowly.  Just wanted everyone to know I was still alive and kicking.  I have been blog reading but have not caught up yet on posting comments.  Bear with me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Back from an alternate universe

So I pretty much spent a couple of days this week communing with my inner basketcase.  I got my crazy on, thinking I really wanted to do this surgery and with the Brit and the kids away for the first half of the week, I was on my own to research everything I could find on gastric bypass.  I mean, I was on message boards and signing up for email groups and reading everything on-line that I could find.

Then, I got all freaked out and started to wonder what the hell I was thinking.  Surgery?  Rearranging my insides?  What if I die on the table?  What if I get a clot after surgery that kills me?  What if twenty years down the road, some complication the doctors didn't even know about arises and kills me or turns me into a vegetable or something?  I freaking myself out so badly that I plunged into what could only be called a depression where the only thing that brought me any relief at all from my own mind was sleep.  I slept a lot the first part of this week.  With no one else here, there were no distractions from my own self induced tormenting, so I slept...often.

Finally  yesterday, I managed to get a grip and here is what I know.  I'm not sure if surgery is the right option for me, but it is not a decision I have to make right now.  If the Brit definately wants to do it, I will gladly do the six month structured diet with him and then I will see where I stand and how I feel.  In the meantime, I am pulling myself back up on the eating better bandwagon that I fell from a couple of weeks ago.  I have cancelled all surgery email from coming into my inbox because can you say "overwhelming"??  The group is so big, I was getting like forty emails in an hour.

So, I have not given up on myself yet.  I am not making any big decisions anytime soon and in the meantime, I'm going to keep on keepin' on.  I figure that if God wants me to do this surgery thing, he will make that abundantly clear, as he has done in my life so many times before.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I like absolutes and guarantees and for sures. 

But sometimes we just don't have them.  And sometimes we just have to trust in God that all will be okay, or according to His plan for our lives.  But then I get stuck in trying to decipher what the plan is and it gets complicated.  That's where I am right now; just trying to work it out.

Robyn and I went to the Women of Faith conference in Washington, DC over the weekend.  It was a great conference with Beth Moore for the pre-conference Friday morning.  It was also nice to spend time with Robyn and she really liked the conference and plans on going with me next year.  We laughed a lot (Put her in a tent and hose her down.  She's a survivor, ya gotta keep 'em wet.) and ate good food and drank coffee drinks, and took a swim in the hotel pool.  The Brit got us great Marriott reservations from his Marriott Rewards program and I tell ya, I wanted to take my bed there home with me.  Talk about comfortable!  Everything from the mattress to the down comforter to the pillows was sheer bliss!

There were moments when I thought some of my questions about going through with this surgery were answered during the conference and now that I'm home, I find myself doubting.  I have six months to make up my mind completely, but it would be nice to have a feeling of knowing for sure it was the right thing to do.  I almost get frustrated with the fact that I know God already knows what I'll do and how it will turn out!  This is one of those moments when I long for Him to really share His wisdom with me! 

One of the speakers at the conference referred to this life on earth as an errand we are running.  We're here to get some things done for Him and then we are going back Home.  That part of it is really comforting;  knowing that no matter what happens, there is something so way better than this awaiting us! 

All my life, I have had these moments of intense yearning.  They come at odd times and they are all consuming.  A yearning for something that isn't explained and for the longest time, I never understood what they were.  They were so powerful that at times I felt like crying.  Now, what I think is that these moments are the yearning for Home.  I believe we started out there and then were sent down here on the errand and at times, something in our spirit cries out to go back Home.  It's the only thing that makes any sense to me.

Anyone else ever have those melancholy moments of wanting?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Don't much feel like blogging

So the Brit is away, the kids are off camping, the cats and I are on our own and I spent the majority of my day trying to get straight answers out of my insurance company (which they do not specialize in) and scaring myself half to death over the idea of surgery.  I'm not sure today has been productive.

My insurance requires six months documented "structured diet plan" but they cannot give me a defination of "structured diet plan".  Last week, they told me Curves would count because it showed I was exercising and trying to lose weight.  Today, I was told it did not count because it was not a diet plan.  So, I asked them about TOPS and was told yes, it would qualify, but when I told them I wasn't sure it followed a specific food regiment, then they said, no it would not qualify.  Okay, does it or doesn't it?  Thus my frustration.  So, I reached my second supervisor of the day, and am waiting for a callback tomorrow as she needed to call the clinical department to get specifics.  If getting a definition is this difficult, I can't wait to see what happens when I ask for stuff in writing.

Then, one of the websites I've been doing some research on, I decided to explore a bit further than just the message boards today and ran across a part of their site titled "Memorials".  I'm not so much morbid as curious, so I had to read them.  Granted, there were maybe forty people who had been members of this site since the year 2000 who have died, and many of them died from weight complications before they had surgery.  38 year olds dropping dead of heart attacks, etc.  But there were people who had the surgery and then died of complications, a couple days after or one even a year after due to a bowel problem that was not caught in time.  Several died as a result of blood clots and in looking at their information, they had VERYhigh BMIs like 70+, so it makes me wonder if they were even able to walk prior to surgery.  As if not, they were probably not able to walk right after surgery either.

Either way, it was a bit disconcerting.  So now, while waiting for concrete answers from my insurance company (don't laugh...i'm really hoping for concrete) I am also weighing the pros and cons of gastric bypass vs lapband.  Thankfully, I have plenty of time as I need that six month documentation of something that has yet to be clarified.  Such a process.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Loosening up

I have always been a little bit of a tight ass when it comes to my home being clean.  I like things tidy and more or less in their place.  I have mentioned before that I vacuum daily due to cat hair and children who run in and out of the house.  That is just a tiny glimpse into my insanity...or at least what used to be my insanity. 

Of late, I have become much more lax.  For example, my kitchen floor is in drastic need of being mopped and waxed.  I have that scheduled for roughly the first day of school next month.  There are just some things one woman cannot fight any longer and a clean house during the summer months is one of them.  The kids have a intel pool in the back yard and they often use the back door which enters directly into the kitchen.  Now, the old fanatic cleaning me would simply work up a daily sweat mopping and waxing the kitchen floor daily as the shine was being beaten down by dripping wet children who  cannot seem to remember to use the side door and change clothes in the basement.  I tried that tactic last summer and it didn't go so well.  But this summer, I am forgoing the mopping and waxing until they are safely back in school with much less time to swim.  Though there are moments when I have to grit my teeth or avoid looking at the kitchen floor at all, it is making for a much more relaxed summer for me.  Yes, I still vacuum daily or at least almost daily and when the kids go camping this week I do plan on attacking their room with several trash bags, but at the very least I have taken the edge off my obsessive compulsive behavior for now.

It has been HOT this week and the air conditioning in the church office has gone on the blink again.  This happens at least 2-3 times a summer but the bad thing this time is that the one in charge of it getting fixed has been away and will not be back until tomorrow.  I think I lost those five pounds again the last two days by simply sitting in there and trying to work, but the problem is that when I am really hot, I get sleepy.  Somehow it has still managed to be a productive week.

Tomorrow is my appointment with my PCP to talk about WLS.  I contacted my insurance company yesterday and yes, they do cover the surgery and they gave me the list of requirements.  The only one of real concern is that there needs to be written documentation of weight loss attempts through doctor supervised programs or things like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.  This bothers me because yes, I did do WW about seven years ago but they have no records past three months and I have no intention of paying out money again for something that didn't work for me the first time.  Yes, I lost weight while I stuck with it, but the leader of the meetings was the most boring woman on the planet and though WW insists that those who stay for meetings do better, I decided it was more comfortable to sleep in my bed as opposed to sleeping in a chair while this leader woman bored me to death.  She was not real motivating to say the least and it's hard to be around people trying to lose twenty pounds while I have so much more to lose.  It just always felt like I couldn't relate to any of them. 

So anyway, I need to discuss that with the doctor tomorrow and I need to try to figure out a surgeon tonight.  The one I was looking at has done 1500 of these surgeries, but the friend who told me about him in her last email stated she would not recommend going to Hopkins Bayview, though she did not tell me why.  I've asked that question and am awaiting a response.  I'll keep you all in the loop for how it goes.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Keeping it honest

So, yeah.  I know I haven't blogged much lately, but it's summer and it's busy and it's hot and I still have stuff going on or getting ready to go on, such as Women of Faith this weekend with Robyn. 

There has also been something else going on to an extent that I have battled about whether or not to post here, but I think I have finally decided to do it.  It makes me a little bit nervous because it is rather personal and it is something that some people may get judgmental about.  But with that being said, I try to always strive for honesty here and maybe blogging my experiences may help someone else.  As far as any judgments, people are going to think what they want to think regardless of what I may say or do, but the fact is that no one else knows my struggles other than me.

As you know, I've spent the last six months dieting and managed to lose about 25 pounds, which is a little bit frustrating.  The last few weeks, I have not been exercising due to being insanely busy and then being tired from being so busy.  My eating during this time has not been great but not terrible either and the week of the mission trip, my eating was at the mercy of YouthWorks.  Working out gets more complicated during the summer anyhow with having kids around constantly and trying to manage my schedule plus theirs.  I'm not making excuses.  I could find my way around it if I tried hard enough, I'm sure, but this summer has been busier than most, both with church things and extra-curricular boating, and the Brit being away off and on with work. 

For the last couple of years, I have looked at other options for managing my weight.  Here are the facts.  I have been overweight since I was six years old.  My mother said it started happening right after I had my tonsils out and I'm not sure what my tonsils have to do with anything, but that is her point of reference.  I was dieting in 4th grade and ever since that time have been consumed with losing weight and keeping it off.  I lost a chunk of it in high school by exercising with high impact aerobics twice a day and eating vanilla yogurt, a hard boiled egg and pear nectar every day for lunch.  I lost the weight but obviously as soon as I stopped that insane lunch combination and stopped exercising compulsively, the pounds crept back on along with some of their friends.  I have done Weight Watchers, South Beach, and some other liquid diet thing that I forget the name of.  I have belonged and worked out at Rando's, Gold's Gym, the YMCA and at Curves.  I don't buy junk food because having it in my house is deadly for me.   It is safe to say that I have been consumed with my weight for about 32 years.

I'm tired of fighting it and having to work so hard for so long to lose 25 pounds, only to have five of it already creeping back on.  However, I firmly believe that unless you have had a weight problem, you cannot understand what it is like.  You don't know what it feels like to have a thin, active person, who loves nature and biking and who longs to horseback ride living inside a body that is fat.  I have no desire to battle this for the second half of my life like I have for the first half.

So, I'm looking into gastric bypass.  There.  I said it.  I have made an appointment with my PCP and have left a message with a surgeon I have done some research on.  The process will take about six months, so that gives me time to back out at any point if I decide it is not the right thing for me.  I know it is just a tool to help with weight loss and I know that there are major life changes that have to  happen.  I am prepared for that and don't have a problem with it.  What I think of more is the positive life changes that will take place after the surgery.  The ability to have more energy and to do more.  The finally knowing what it feels like to be a normal weight, because as I cannot remember as far back as six years old, I have no point of reference.

I am researching this and asking questions.  I have found a great website at Renewed Reflections and have been talking to people there who have been through the process.  I personally know three people who have had it done and have spent time talking to them as well.  One friend, who had the surgery done two and a half years ago said that her only regret was that she had not had it done sooner. 

I have never been afraid of taking risks or doing things outside the norm.  Adopting kids through social services is outside the norm for many people, but we took that plunge and are so glad we did.  The argument of many may be that the surgery can be fatal, but so can being overweight.  I have not made any commitments to the surgery yet, but I am researching and gathering information. 

To end on a lighter note, on Saturday we took a friend's two teenage boys and one of their friends out on the boat with us.  It was great fun!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fun in the Sun

So we've been enjoying our new toy very much!  We've taken her out on Deep Creek Lake and to Dam #4 so far and both experiences have been wonderful.  It's a learning experience for sure, but we're getting there and what we are finding is that most boat owners are extremely helpful and eager to assist if there is a problem.  Though one man told us with a chuckle that "The two best days in a boat owner's life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it."  We'll see, but for right now, I'm loving it.

And so are the kids.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mission Trip 2007

So, a week ago Sunday, the youth group of our church, accompanied by four adults, set off for a little town in West Virginia for a mission trip with YouthWorks.  The ride was a long six hours, but we kept ourselves and the kids entertained with music and conversation.  We had ten teenagers with us, most of which had never before done a mission trip, nor had two of the adults, myself included.

The ride was uneventful, albeit beautiful as we were surrounded by the rolling hills and mountains of West Virginia.  We were the second church group to arrive at around 4:00 pm, in the smallest town I have ever seen.  We're talking tiny.  The town is a coal mining town, so other than that, there is very little industry.  We saw a few convenience stores, a month old dollar store, a coffee shop and a gift shop in addition to one or two individually owned pizza shops.  There was no grocery store nor any chain restaurants. Actually, other than what I just described, there was very little else, other than impoverished people who wound up being some of the nicest people I have ever met. 

There are no zoning laws in this community, so if you have money, property is cheap, which is why you occasionally see this:

If you look closely to the left of the big house, you will see a little shed with a motor home next to it; someone lives there as well.  It runs the gamut on extremes, though the large homes are few and far between, but they still look strangely out of place in this little community.

There were five church groups in total that week and that evening we met up with our fearless leaders:

From left to right: Logan, Grant, Courtney and Megan

These kids ran the show as they are employed by YouthWorks and to say they are amazing would be a drastic  understatement.  Logan worked with the groups that worked on houses and Grant and Courtney flitted between work projects, while Megan was in charge of kid's club.  The five churches were then divided up into three work groups, mixing up the churches so we were all working with some kids from our home church as well as kids from the other churches.  Two of the groups worked on fixing up some folk's houses and the other group ran the kid's club for the children in the community and paid a few visits to the nursing home to sing and visit with the residents.  There are so many stories to tell, but let me hit a few highlights and logistics of how it all works to give you a grand overview.


We all met at a church that was no longer being used, for meals and "Club".  There is an assignment chart for meals and cleanup and the chart is made up by work groups.  The group I was a part of was the "Banjos" for example.  We had to cook dinner one night and handle morning cleanup on another day.  We were cooking for about 75 people, in a small space, both to cook it and to serve it, but we made it work.  Each person was responsible for cleaning their own dishes in the dining hall, where pans were set out for pre-wash, wash, rinse and sanitize.  Then each person dried their own dishes.  There was always a line and the worst part of it was that the water in the town had a very strong sulfur smell to it that was overwhelming in the dining room.  I couldn't drink the stuff either, so I purchased bottled water all week. 

The girls slept in a school portable trailer that was about two miles away from the church.  The guys slept in another building a block away from the church.  We showered in yet another place and kid's club was held someplace else.  Most things were within walking distance with the exception of the girl's dorm and the showers.  The portable trailer had two rooms, two bathrooms (toilets and sinks only) and we housed about 35 girls in there.  There was always a line for the bathroom, needless to say.  There were no beds, so everyone had brought air mattresses and sleeping bags.  Pretty much, each of the two rooms was wall to wall bedding other than one small path with which to get through.  We were thankful it was air conditioned.

Kid's Club crew was slated to shower twice during the week; on Monday and Wednesday.  The adults had the option of getting up early and showering before breakfast any day they wanted to and Erin and I took them up on that.  The showers were built by the community members just for YouthWorks and were located in an old locker room.  Pretty much, there was a male side and a female side, each containing one room with some cubbies made out of wood for showering items.  The showers were closed off by a curtain and the showering area had about six shower heads and wooden boards were laid off on the floor.  I would shower and watch the water bugs crawling up the walls, but if I wanted a shower, it was better than nothing and beings that one day last week the temps hit 102, I was all for a shower.

A Typical Day

Breakfast was served at 7:30, so that was what time we had to be back at the main church, unless you were slated to fix breakfast that morning, and in that case, you had to be there at 7:00.  Sooo glad my group never had to fix breakfast!  Breakfast was generally cereal, oatmeal, one morning we had egg and ham on english muffins, yogurt, etc.  During breakfast, we also  had to pack our lunch for the day, so on another table there was bread, lunch meat, chips, snacks, etc.  We had to make sure that the cooler for our group had an ice pack in it and that our water cooler contained water.  Breakfast crew cleaned up breakfast while the morning cleanup vacuumed, and cleaned bathrooms.

After eating and cleanup, we all met upstairs in the sanctuary (a large room with a few pews around the edges for the adults.  The kids met on the floor) for morning devotions for about thirty minutes, then we were dispensed to our work groups.

We worked with our groups on either houses or kid's club until around 3:00.  House work groups showered everyday at three and then we all had free time until around 4:30.  If you were on dinner prep that night, you had to be in the kitchen at 4:15 if you were a youth and the adult leaders met with Grant everyday at 4:30 for half an hour.  We would exchange our stories that had happened during the day and Grant would give us "the next twenty-four hours" and what that time would look like.  It gave the adults time to compare stories and to get to know the other adults who were not in our work group.

Dinner was at 5:00 and after eating and cleanup, we always had an evening activity.  One night it was swimming in the next town over (about 40 minutes away), one night it was taking in the bluegrass band that played exclusively for YouthWorks on Tuesday nights.  Our last night there, it was a community cookout, inviting members of the town to join us. 

Many of the youth the night of the bluegrass concert

There was also an activity on Wednesday where the kids divided up into groups to work out a budget for if they lived below the poverty line.  They had to budget housing, food, transportation, health care, etc for a family of four.  Once they had done that, they were given another sheet and asked to cross out what they were willing to do without.  This sheet contained all the extras that they didn't budget for on the first sheet: school supplies, Christmas gifts etc.  This really made the week hit home for many of the kids as the residents of this little town struggled with making ends meet everyday.

After the activity, there was a snack and a little more free time before Club began.  Club was a time to worship and for Courtney to share a story or mini-sermon if you will.  She was a wonderful speaker and really had the kid's attention and the adults as well!  Club was over at 10:00 and then we were dispensed to our church groups to discuss the events of the day, to pray, to continue worship or anything we saw fit to do.  Then it was back to our sleeping quarters and lights out as close to 11:00 as possible.  We never made it any earlier than midnight.

The Work

The work was amazing and not because it was easy work, but because we knew we were truly serving people who needed the help.  My group ran kid's club, which is a VBS that runs all summer essentially.  The same community kids come all summer but each week, their youth and adult leaders change as the next group of churches arrives.  Megan is their only constant for the summer and it is easy to see the bond she is forming with the children.  We would arrive at the church where the kid's club was held just after 9:00 (and the church from the outside was more of a store front) and begin planning and setting up for the day.  We had songs to lead, crafts to help the kids make, a skit to prepare and sandwiches to fix.  For some children, that lunch we prepared could be the only meal they eat that day.  We sent vans out around 11:30 to start picking up the kids and as the walkers arrived, our youth teamed up with each child to play games and just to give them one on one attention, which they desperately needed.  Once everyone arrived, we ate lunch and then played games for awhile before we would officially begin with songs.

The kids loved the penguin song, which the youth from the previous
week had taught them.

After songs it was the skit and then the craft or games.  Before we knew it, it was 2:30 and time to start getting the kids home, clean up and head back to the main church.  The kids formed incredibly strong bonds with the youth during the four days and it was painful for many of the teens and adults to let go at the end of the week.

Two mornings, before kid's club, our group journeyed up the mountain to visit the residents in the nursing home, another amazing experience, where simply a touch and a smile would brighten the day of someone unable to speak or communicate.

The other two work groups worked on two separate houses.  I know less about this as I was not there but some of the stories came through to everyone.  One work crew got a family of eleven running water in their home for the first time in three years.  For three years, in all kinds of weather, these folks would carry pans of water up the hill from their neighbor's well.  Another home had a yard full of scrap stuff that needed to be cleared and hauled out.  The home owner was just so overwhelmed with everything but as soon as the work crew showed up to help, he pitched right in beside of them. 

Houses were painted, rotten flooring ripped up and replaced; anything that needed to be done, the kids jumped in and took care of.

What I learned

At the beginning of the week, I was doubting the wisdom of coming but as the relationships began to form, both in club and with the community, I realized just how happy I was to be there.  I was sleep deprived,  smelled like sulfur water and my hair had been wash and go, but there was just something special about being a part of last week.

Many of the people in this community have little; no computers, video games, cars or nice houses.  But they knew their neighbors and helped each other.  With no cable television, people sat outside in the evenings and chatted with their friends or headed down to the adorable little coffee shop for a milkshake or fried bologna sandwich.  We met people who had nothing that gave to us all week in friendship or little handmade jewelry or trinkets.  My heart was touched deeply by these people and who they were. 

I came to realize that though we may have much and for that I am very thankful to God, it is the people in that little community of friends, who are truly blessed.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

More tomorrow

Just wanted to say that I'm home and in one piece, though tired.  I am still processing the mission trip last week and will start writing about it tomorrow, but there is so much to tell!  I have stories and pictures to share, but just be patient.  While I was away, our old computer bit the dust, so we now have a new one and I am still in the process of getting my old bookmarks set up and programs reinstalled before I am ready to blog properly!

Hope everyone is well and still hanging with me!  I'll be blogging for real tomorrow!