Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Happy Memory

Precisely one week before Wes died, on his lasts fully awake day (he was bed bound by this point), Wes kept reapeating over and over again, with a blissful look on his face:  "I'm happy."  "I'm so happy."  "I'm really really happy."  "I'm so happy."

His words were hard to come by at this point in his life, and often came out haltingly because his tumor was in the speech center.  But he was saying this over and over with great determination and meaning.

After a while, it occurred to me that something more than a good mood might be going on.

"Wes, are you seeing saints and angels?"

Wes happened to be chewing a bit of food when I asked the question.  He didn't answer me with words, but his face broke out into the most affirmative, delighted and mischievious grin.  He never did answer me with words after he finished his bite.  I don't think he was allowed to tell me, and I didn't press the point.  But he told me with his smile.

This memory brings me great comfort.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A New Abnormal

I am so betwixt and between and I feel rather lost.  I suppose that this is normal just a few months after one's husband dies.

On the one hand, it seems that I am getting up and doing things each day...the things that present theselves as needing done, or things on my VERY long list of big stuff that need to get done.  And so I am functional.

On the other hand, the three of us (myself, B and E who moved back home when he dropped out of school) hardly know how to be a family.  It's like we are drifting without our anchor.  Each of us spends an inordinate amount of time in our own room, and since each of us has special food needs, we've been mostly fixing our own individual meals and fending for ourselves.  This place is like a ghost town, except for in our own rooms where we live.

We are going to make an effort to eat supper together and spend a wee bit of time together.  Of course I see each one individually whenever I need to take someone someplace, since I'm the driver/caregiver helping people to navigate the world as young adults with autism.  E got his learner's permit and we've had one driving lesson so far. We seem to have so many medical appointments.

So I feel lost.  I don't know myself any more.

I can't seem to find the time or energy to sew and I just dont have much ooomph at all. In between doing the long list of things I have to get done, I just don't' have any energy for anythig FUN. 

I AM going to the gym a few times a week, and regularly increasing my weights on the weight lifting, so that's nice.  Yesterday I squatted 105, and did 100 pound deadlifts...bench press is 55 pounds right now and that feels pretty heavy.

I think I bit myself in my sleep again last night.  It's happened before.  I woke up with bruises on my arm...again.

Yeah.  Grief sucks.  I cry a lot.  I'm not worried about moving forward in life yet.  No big decisions to be made.  I'm just here and this is my new abnormal.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Life Update

The college people are home from school for the semester and my son actually dropped out of school about two weeks before term ended.  He is job hunting now.  I'm not really worried about him.  I trust he will find his way in life, and probably back to school when he has tasted the joys of manual labor...just perhaps not Berea. 

Yesterday when I came in (after supper, in the evening) from a quick Walmart run, there was a small plumbing emergency happening in the kitchen:  the head of the sprayer hose on the kitchen sink had come loose.  Jamming back on was ineffective, since the water pressure kept pushing it off again.  We used lots of towels.  I finally shut off the water to the kitchen sink, and removed the hose.  10:30 pm saw me blearily wandering the hardware section of Walmart (it's right next door to my house...I walked) hunting for a kitchen sink hose/sprayer.  Those don't exist at Walmart, so I will have to go to Lowe's or Home Depot today to get the parts for that fix.  I don't mind fixing things, it's just that my day is already super busy. 

Christmas:  I suppose I should wrap stuff.  Meh.  Tree is up.  I bought a turkey to cook.  Meh.  The only thing I'm looking forward to about Christmas is Church. 

I miss healthy Wes.  Grief is a strange thing and plays ugly tricks on the mind and emotions.  Cancer took so much of Wes away from me before he was actually gone.  I don't miss the cancer and what it did to him, and I don't miss some of the ways it changed his brain....but I miss HIM.  Does that make sense? 

Things are pretty much settled after the move.  I have cleaners coming tomorrow to clean the townhome before I turn in the keys.  I still have one or two things to do there before that happens, but all my stuff is out, and I'm grateful I don't have to spend a few days there cleaning.  I can hardly stand to go over there.  I just don't like it. 

So that's my update.  I've probably been slightly dehydrated since early October or late September when Wes had his big seizure and needed constant caregiving... and life has been non-stop no rest since then, I am very run down and am taking measures to take better care of myself so that I'm not sick in bed for Christmas.  I'm feeing fibromyalgia pains again and I've not had that in a very long time.  I have some other auto-immune symptoms (including more hair loss, actually) and I'm trying to figure out if I'm eating something I'm allergic to, or sensitive to, or if it's just general stress causing the flare. 

I want my life to slow down enough so that I have time and energy to work on some projects...sewing, writing maybe...something that moves me forward and is substantial, as opposed to the endless day to day cycle of life-basics-caregiving.  Did I mention that there was good news from Social Security?  Since Bethany is a disabled adult, she gets Wes' death benefits.  And since I am her caregiver, so do I!  Between us, we have a workable budget for our household.

Please add  your prayers that my son, Eric, can get hired somewhere and that he can develop some friendships with people at Church.  He also needs to start working on his driver's license.  Ugh.  I do not enjoy this single parenting solo gig.  I mean, I do enjoy parenting...but I miss Wes. He was so steady and kind.

Friday, November 24, 2017

After The Weight is Lost: Holiday Edition (a poorly written rambly mess of an article).

As many of you who know me on facebook know, I've lost "the weight".  My adventure began on March 11, 2016 (or was it the 13th?  I lost track) and since that time I've released almost 90 pounds, going from 2x/3x clothes to M clothes with a few items labeled S an a few things in L that I'm not letting go of yet.

It takes a new set of skills to lose weight and keep it off, and it takes consistent engagement with those skills and a commitment to keeping the lines in place.

I'll be open and say that my weight loss has been helped by joining Overeaters Anonymous, getting a sponsor and working the 12 steps and being "abstinent".  But if I look at that process through an analytical eye, there are certain things I am doing that can either be done with a 12 step program, or elsewise.  Recovery by any other name is just as sweet.  Likewise, there are things that I am doing that are not specific to OA (OA doesn't make any comment on specific food plans and whatnot) which I think most people who are successfully losing weight and/or keeping it off do the same.

As with most things, I will take a systems theory approach to my analysis and the skill set I have acquired.  My hope is that by breaking it down and sharing it with the world, it might help another human being.

So, the different components (modules, systems...pick your terminology) of weight loss are:

Physical...calories in/calories out. (honest:  I didn't exercise while I was losing the majority of my weight.  I lift weights now, twice a week, because I love it and I want to be strong. Unless I am climbing a mountain, I'm not that in to cardio...ymmv.)

Physiological:  what type of calories are going in and how does YOUR body respond to them?  (in other words:  get off the sugar.  Yes, you.)

Psychological/Spiritual/Relational:  What is driving the overeating?  How can this drive be released/reduced. Is your over eating driving a wedge between you and God?  You and others?  Are you over eating to numb your feelings or stuff them down and deny them, even to yourself?  Are you controlling others (or attempting to control others)? Are you codependant, resentful, wounded?

The 12 Steps really really help to address the Psychological/Spiritual/Relational aspects of over eating, and I would highly recommend to anyone who struggles with this to dig in to those.  Since this program is solid and it exists, I won't re-invent the wheel.

Surrender is VITAL.  What happened to me on March 11, 2016?  I DIED.  I died to the cake, the pie, the bread the cookies.  It was a spiritual work of God in my heart.  That's the only way I can describe it.  I died to the things that were my trigger foods that would lead me into over-eating.  At long last I acknowledged that binge eating could be a series of micro-binges, and was not always the magnified dramatic type of binge that gets shown on TLC.  Binge eating can be a series of cozy, comfortable habits that don't feel like a binge at all.  Because a person can binge on "Just one"..."just one more...".  Once I was able to be honest about MY habits and to see them for the excess that they were, instead of justifying myself and how I was eating, I was able to start recovery. I had to let go of trying to have my cake and eat it this case, I had to let go of the cake. A wise friend pointed out to me one time that whenever I started a new diet, the first thing I did was figure out how to make cookies or brownies or cake within the parameters of that diet.  I got really good at low carb baking, grain free baking, gluten free baking, baking, baking, baking.

I had to stop baking.

Ok, so lets look for a moment at the physical/physiological aspects of long term weight loss and maintenance and conclude with what that means for the holidays.

A good book that repeats some helpful information to consider is Bright Line Eating.  There's nothing new there, and the author borrows heavily from OA concepts.  I think what Bright Line Eating delivers is some clear guidelines about food quantities and types which OA does not address.  I think those of us with more success in OA are the ones who find a food plan that is similarly strict, and that our definition of abstinence has some "bright lines".  Mine does.  It is not necessary (IMO) to pay money to join BLE when the same support can be got for free via OA.  But if paying money helps you, then by all means, do it.  I will say that, for me, the BLE food plan is too strict and restrictive.  It would not be a "forever plan" for me.  Not enough calories.  But I am tall and muscular, and it IS enough calories for my more petite sisters.  (The BLE food plan is somewhere in the 1450 calorie range.  My own calorie needs have been more or less 1700 calories a day when I count them...some days a bit more, other days a bit less.  The excess weight has come off gradually and in a healthy way...but looking back on the last 622 days, it seems an astonishingly fast transformation.)

So...the boundaries (bright lines, if you will)...defining abstinence....that is going to look similar and different for each person.  My own personal lines are rather strict:

I don't eat sugar or artificial sweeteners except for Stevia and Truvia (a stevia/erythritol blend). No honey, no molasses, no maple syrup, no white sugar or brown sugar, no aspartame, no splenda...none of coconut sugar or agave nectar.  If I take a bite of something at coffee hour and it tastes sweet (why do they put sugar in salad?  yes, it happens.) I pass on it.

I don't eat baked goods.  No bread, no muffins, cakes, cookies, pies...nothing with that fluffy melt in your mouth mouth feel that these thing afford.

I do eat some gluten free pasta in measured quantities, and I do have corn tortillas from time to time at a restaurant.  I don't eat corn chips because I have identified a tendency to munch...more on that later.  I do occasionally have french fries if I am at a restaurant and I need a gluten free carb.

About the corn chips:  I started out and they were on my OK list of foods, beside the corn tortillas  and the potatoes.  I was OK with them for a while and then they started creeping up on me and I wanted them more often than prudent.  Another bright line I have is that I am utterly willing to let go of ANY FOOD that I see is becoming a problem food for me. Any food.  It's just food.  If I a desirous to over eat it, out it goes.

And no alcohol.  It is a sugar, basically...and for me, it lowers my inhibitions enough to where I am face deep in a pile of food if I drink. "Don't mind, me, one more won't hurt a thing..."

Oh, I forgot to mention:  I have food allergies.  So, no gluten, no dairy, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no chocolate, no shrimp, no sunflower seeds.  I carry an epi pen.  yes, I do.  So none of those things are on the table for me.  I'll be honest:  the food allergies help me avoid temptation.

But I do eat carbs:  oatmeal, rice, the occasional corn tortilla, beans, fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes.  I am not on a low carb diet.  In fact, I feel better when I have a balance of carbs, fat and protein.  I low carbed for years and never lost the weight (was eating too many calories) and burned out my adrenals in the process.

I'm also not on a low fat diet, but I have learned that I have to measure my fats in order to keep my fat percentage around 35%.  I was eating a lot more fat before, since I have a liberal hand when it comes to cooking and portions.  So I have learned that even with measuring my fats, I still don't fall into the definition of "low fat"...

The other line I have is on portion sizes and weighing/measuring my food. I had to become willing to use my weighing and measuring tools consistently at first....and I am still willing to use them daily, and I do if I am at home.  At this point, some days I count calories and some days I don't.  On the days I count calories, I have a bit more flexibility on when I eat...sometimes I end up having some air popped popcorn in order to meet my calorie target at the end of the day.  Sometimes I don't. Often those days consist of a series of tried and true meals for which I have already counted the calories in the past and I know they fall within my lines.  On the days when I don't count calories, I still measure my protein (4 oz. serving), my fat (1/2 T. serving) and my carbs (1 cup rice, pasta or potato). On the no calorie counting days I have another strict rule:  Three meals, no snacks.  And at those meals, I eat my normal measured portions, no seconds.  I MIGHT have a piece of fruit (included in my meal budget that I eat a bit before dinner to keep my blood sugar from tanking).  I know myself well enough to know that I will always need to measure protein, fat and carb foods...the only time I don't measure them is when I am out at a restaurant.  I will be honest and say that:  The number of places I eat out is countable on about one hand, and I always order the same thing off the menu, so I've looked up the nutrition information on those meals in the past and I insert them into my day, eat and move on.  It's about the fuel aspect of food.  It's not really about the deliciousness, although it generally does taste good. I don't measure my vegetables strictly.  I tend to eat a lot of vegetables to get my meal volume high enough to be satisfying.  One cup of pasta and 4 ounces of meat is paltry.  Add 2 cups of steamed veggies to that, and it's enough food.

When I'm at a Mexican restaurant and I'm waiting on my meal, it IS hard to not eat the corn chips, especially when I am very hungry, and if I were not very hungry I would not be there to eat a meal.  But God gives strength.

So, if you have made it thus far through this rambly mess of a blog post, I want to address the holiday aspect of weight loss and weight maintenance.  It IS possible to have a festive occasion, and even have special holiday foods without crossing the lines and making exceptions.  I screamed like an angry toddler every day for a week when I was detoxing from sugar, and let me tell ya...I ain't doing that again.  No thank you.

I do NOT miss the almost 90 pounds I've released.  I do NOT want them to find me again.  The pie is not worth it.

So, holidays:  Meat...that's easy.  Eat some meat.  Turkey, roast, whatever.  Have some.  for my part, what would a holiday menu look like within the lines I have set:  meat, rice seasoned with sage/onion/mushrooms, perhaps, or mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce made from scratch sweetened with stevia, pumpkin custard (the crust is a nope...but if you made something with a nut crust that might work if flour stuff is off your list), if you aren't allergic to dairy you could make a sugar free have more options than I do.  Cinnamon apples, kale salad, sauteed green beans...the possibilities for healthy side dishes are almost endless.  Many traditional favorites CAN be re-imagined to fall inside your lines.

And so it's meal time, and I eat.  I measure the potatoes, I measure the meat.  I eat liberally of the veggies.  I measure the apples.  that is my dessert.  I am full and I don't get seconds.  And by the time supper comes, I am hungry and I can have another meal.

The day after Thanksgiving breakfast tradition of pie is replaced with putting some sugar fee cranberry sauce in my oatmeal instead of my usual banana.  I add cinnamon.  It is special.

There's a balance to be created between "this is just an ordinary day" and "this is a feasting day"... and it's possible to make special occasion dishes that fall within the parameters of one's food plan.  Because, in the's not about the food.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Day

We got Wes' diagnosis the day before Thanksgiving in 2013.  So yeah, this holiday is forever basically ruined for our family.

And he's only been gone 6.5 weeks, and so today is shitty shitty shitty shitty hard. 

We are trying to ignore the holiday, but the work of ignoring it means there's an awareness and so it's actually impossible to ignore.  You know how it goes. 

Not cooking a Turkey (none of us LIKE Turkey enough for that).  But people still gotta eat so there will be food, I suppose.

Going to see Thor this afternoon.  We went and saw Justice League yesterday.  This is a special form of torture for me, but I love my peeps, so I will do it.

Yeah, holidays are crummy for the bereaved.  I didn't make it to Church this morning for Divine Liturgy because I couldn't muster the energy to climb over the steaming pile of my grief and:  get dressed, say prayers, be hungry and go to Church.  Not to mention being the energy force that supposedly gets the millenials up and out the door.  Nope.  Trying to learn to not do that.

My motto in life is:  I don't control people.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Very often I stand in my icon corner and I just wail at God: "He died!!!" 
Like I am in shock and astonished and dismayed and surprised that after all the anticipatory grief, the thing actually happened. 
The fact that it is so jarring has come as a surprise. 
"He died!!!" I cry. 
"He died!!!" 
It is all so wrong.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Widowhood 101: Unclogging the Sink

Tonight the kitchen sink was clogged up with some herbal stuff that a certain someone decided to send down the garbage disposal.  This device is NOT meant to deal with leaves, herbs and twigs...So I tried a snake, and I tried a plunger, to no avail. I had my hand all up in there, picking twigs and leaves out for a very long time... Then I decided to get radical and I took the pipes apart under the sink.  And I removed the gunk.  And then I put them back together.  And then I had to do it a second time because there was more gunk I missed the first time.  So I did.

I did this.  Successfully. 

I didn't call a plumber. 

I didn't have to discuss with anyone what to do. 

I didn't have anyone disagreeing with what I thought should be done. 

I just saw what needed doing and did it, because that is now I am.

I saved a bunch of money. 

It is scary and awful to be alone, but unilateral decisions that turn out well....kinda nice.