I don’t know why the numbers make such a difference. Ever since my bariatric surgery the question I get asked most often is “How much have you lost?” Since the answer to that question depends a lot on where I start counting from even the numbers are ambiguous. Do I start with my “top weight”? Do I start with the weight on my bariatric surgeon’s chart from my first visit? Do I start with the weight I had on the day of surgery?
It doesn’t help that I can be very casual about numbers. I’m good with math, but I don’t really remember numbers well. Every time I’ve moved (and it’s not that many times) I get my checks changed immediately, so I can LOOK whenever someone asks my address. It takes me months! The best thing about cell phones is that I get to keep my phone number. I didn’t change plans until I could.
I can’t even remember how old I am. My kids remember. I could do the math, but if someone is asking I figure if they really want to know THEY can do the math. I was 23 for 3 years, it was a number I could remember. I’m bad with my kids ages too. I don’t believe Orion just turned 26, but I’m sure he’s right.
I didn’t go into the bariatric surgery with my eyes on the numbers. I cared about energy and mobility and health. All of those things are noticeably improved. I can stand longer, do more and am more comfortable. I no longer shuffle when I walk. I even put on a pair of heels. I can curl up in my favorite chair. I don’t need as many pillows in my bed. I don’t get winded coming up the stairs. These are the things that matter.
Still, there’s that number. 100. It makes a difference. It shouldn’t, but it really does. Hitting the 100 lb weight loss mark is a milestone, like it or not. It doesn’t matter what percentage of my weight I’ve lost, or how much I have left to go. It’s just that number.
I’ll hit it several times, depending on where I count from. But I suspect the impact of the milestone will only hit me this once. So, I’ll claim it. Let’s hear it for 100!
I often start the autumn decorating in August, with the first harvest. Then add and subtract all the way through Thanksgiving. This year though it’s taken me until now to start thinking about Halloween decorating. It’s the neighbors that got me started. All those walks around the block are becoming inspirational.
I was surprised at how few actual Halloween decorations I could find. I suspect several of the things I know I’ve got somewhere are too practical to be tucked away. I know I have a few serving platters and baskets. The gourds and corn may have all been tossed. Over the years they can get a little nasty in the damp basement.
What I did find was my Brujeria. I picked her up in Mazatlan when I was there with Orion for his High School graduation trip. She’s too delicate to ship well. (I’ve been glueing bits back on ever since.) But I loved her attitude. Halloween, Samhein, Dios de los Muertos all come together for me in this little witch.
I’ve always enjoyed the fall. The cooler weather appeals to me. In Minnesota fall is much more dependable a season than spring. Denial of winter is easy as long as the snow doesn’t get too thick on the ground. I’ve trick-or-treated in snow pants and boots, but most of the time those early snows don’t linger.
On the other side of the year it doesn’t seem like spring until something green is poking out from the ground. That doesn’t often happen when there’s still melting snow. In Minnesota spring can last a day or a week, but fall can go on for months September-October-November. Sometimes it feels like fall in August, but it’s still summer at least until Labor Day, regardless of the weather.
It’s a good time of the year for fires in the fireplace, or even a bonfire outdoors. It’s all about being dressed in layers. Sweaters, woolens, deep pockets and hats but mostly sweaters. It’s not unusual to see a sweater with shorts, or a wool coat and shoes – no socks. There are plenty of people here who will hang on to wearing sandals until the snow really flies.
At this time of year it’s easy to be aware of the presence of our ancestors. I think about the fishing and hunting this time of year as a way to gather enough to make it through the winter. I think about my own ancestors wishing for a little more warm to get in the crops and a little more cold to make refrigeration possible. When I pick up sticks in the yard I’m planning kindling for when the woodpile is buried under the snow.
The Brujeria thinks like this at all times, in all seasons. She lives in harmony with the world around her, even when she is at odds with the culture. She gathers her ingredients when the time is right and uses them at her own discretion as the need arises. She feels the changing of the seasons in her bones and readies herself and her clients for whatever she foresees.
This year I’m hoping she’ll help me with that!
Orion turns 26 years old this week. I can’t even wrap my head around that. He’s approaching this birthday with typical enthusiasm. He’s excited to have a theme to use in his interactions with people, especially when he knows they’ll all wish him well. He’s excited about going out to a new restaurant he learned about from the guy who delivered his new wheelchair last month. In fact Orion invited the guy and his wife to his birthday dinner and still holds hope they’ll be there.
For me every one of Orion’s birthday’s is a little bittersweet. I love seeing him so happy. I love watching him shift and grow as he explores new ways of being in the world. I love that he doesn’t care at all about presents, he just wants attention and hugs. His upbeat attitude is contagious. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
But I also understand the limits of his independence, which become more obvious, more pronounced as he ages. He doesn’t have aspirations for a career, or even a job. He’s happy to help out when he’s asked and able, but even his day program hasn’t found a part-time volunteer placement for him in the last 2 years. His future possibilities get smaller and smaller with each passing year.
There’s also my part in all of it. I’m not sure that it’s still the best option for either of us to be “tied at the hip”. As his primary caregiver I’m very much aware of how little I’m able to do to move him forward. That’s been particularly obvious these last few months when our mobility has been additionally limited by my recovery from the surgery. Caregivers are hard to come by. Orion needs stimulation and he’s become too comfortable with the status quo to be motivated to move forward.
When Orion was born we were told that he’d probably be a vegetable and would be dead before he was 5 years old. I didn’t think that the evidence supported that conclusion then, and clearly rejecting that comment was a good decision. I have an enormous amount to be grateful for. Orion has been such a blessing in my life. He’s an inspiration, a delight, and a wonder.
Orion, may you continue to take joy in the world around you. May you continue to work at developing social interactions and the skills to build relationships. May you find ways to do the things you enjoy that are also productive and sustaining. May you always be open to new experiences, new people, and new possibilities for your future.
With the Fall equinox upon us I’ve started to notice the signs of autumn creeping up. The leaves are just beginning to turn. The trees that have been severely stressed by our odd weather are further along, but the majority are just hinting at colors.
That stress is definitely in the air. One day the highs are barely above 60F the next they’re well into the 70’s. Mornings are cool, almost cold when they are damp. There’s been hard frost further north and it would not be unseasonable to see some here in the city. It’s difficult to dress for such unpredictable, changeable weather.
The sun shines, equal with the darkness. It still carries warmth with its light, but that warmth seems more focused. It gets hot in the car, if it’s in the direct sun, but the warmth doesn’t creep past the edges of the shadows of the tree line.
I’ve had a fire or two in the fireplace, trying not to turn on the heat. It’s difficult to crawl out of bed when the temperature in the house is below 65. When I do turn on the furnace (because it’s impossible to get out of a warm tub when the air is that cold) I try to remember to turn it off again. Sometimes I get to wondering why I’m so hot before it occurs to me I’ve forgotten.
At least with the heat on the air is filtered. The cool and damp is ideal for mold – one of my worst allergies. It will get worse before it gets better as leaves fall into mulch. Soon I’ll be begging for the hard freeze, but I wouldn’t begrudge a few more weeks of summer weather after.
Happy Autumnal Equinox!
Previous Equinox blogs:
We went to a family wedding this weekend. I’m at that age where I really appreciate “weddings and funerals” as an opportunity to get together with the extended family, the relatives I don’t see very often. Even at these events people tend to cluster with their “immediate” families. Still, it’s nice to see how everyone is doing, aging, and whose kids (the names I can’t keep track of) are now grown.
This wedding was particularly special. On my Mom’s side of the family I’m the oldest of the girl cousins, and Becci is the youngest. Additionally our families have been close. We used to camp together growing up. My Mom and my Aunt would plot to sneak the leftover marshmallows into the other one’s camp kitchen to take home. S’more’s are essential camp food with kids, but neither family had any real use for marshmallows in their day-to-day lives.
My Mom is the oldest girl in her family and my Uncle the youngest. Their age difference is about the same as mine to my Uncle. That’s about the same difference as between me and my cousin. That’s about the same difference as between my cousin and my daughter. Becci is getting married in her 30’s. She’s breaking the chain. But waiting for “Mr. Right” seems to have held her in good stead.
The wedding was particularly well attended. Both the bride and groom come with large extended families. Both of them also have a presence in their small town communities. People have watched them grow up, build careers, and wished them well throughout their lives. It was a nearly impossible task to keep the guest list numbers down.
Those of us who’ve had weddings know there are a certain number of invitations that get sent out with the expectation that those people will never come. They are invitations that are necessary to send, as announcements or because of an obligation of manners. People spread out in our society and traveling 3 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, 12 hours, days “just for a wedding” gets expensive. However, for Becci and Caleb people were willing to do just that. There were so many responses they had to change the wedding venue. Instead of getting married in the church where her Uncle preaches, Becci got married in the Auditorium of the High School where her brother teaches music. They filled the seats!
It was a beautiful event. They did a lovely job decorating the space. The service was personal and joyful. The caterers served good food to nearly 500 people and everyone ate in less than 1 ½ hours. (We tended to have meals in town at the restaurant that catered the event.) The DJ’s did a good job with the music and Orion got to dance with the bride. I even danced a little!
Being in Wisconsin, we even had time between the wedding and the reception to sneak over to the bar. There is nothing like fresh fried cheese curds for an afternoon snack! Wisconsin beer, however, is off my menu post the bariatric surgery.
As Orion so eloquently told everyone the next morning, “I have nothing but love in my heart for the newlyweds!”
It has been a busy week, which is kind of nice. We’ve had medical appointments, adventures, and a day in the park. I’d say it’s been ups and downs, but actually it’s been mostly ups. Sure the challenges have been there. I’m still not putting the wheelchair into the car so logistics are complicated. But all the potential roadblocks were addressed and things continue to move forward.
It really was a week of medical. All of my standard appointments, plus Orion got his quarterly botox shots (to help with the spastic tone in his legs) and I had another CT following up my ER visit a few weeks ago. That’s what I thought this blog was going to be about at the beginning of last week. Then I started having fun.
A friend got tickets to a concert by the Cactus Blossoms and invited me and another friend to join her. Girls night out and fun country music, why not? We had a grand time. Even the opening act was delightful. Andru Bemis proved to be an impressive musician and entertainer. I didn’t get up and dance, but by the end of the concert I was on my feet rocking to the music. Nice to be able to do that again!
The day in the park was for Pagan Pride. Our community has been doing a Pride event for a long time. In the past few years Pride has presented itself in a very public way at Minnehaha Falls Park. It’s nice to be out under the oak trees, but it’s also nice to have some visibility in the larger community.
There are vendors, public rituals, music and dance performances and a lot of chatting with old friends. Members of the Reclaiming community set up a labyrinth and other groups have booths promoting festivals and local events. It’s a large community so there’s always something going on.
It was a beautiful day to be outside. In fact it was a beautiful weekend, cool but warm in the sunshine. I even got to have dinner out Sunday with another group of friends. A side order of humus should keep me in lunches for a few more days. “Small portions” has taken on a whole new meaning, but I’m feeling good and really enjoying being out and about.
I promised I’d let you know how sailing went. It was delightful! We had a pretty calm day so we drifted back and forth across the Mississippi River at Lake Pepin. Three middle-aged women in the middle of nowhere on a perfect day just chatting was exactly the right way to treat myself to a “time out”.
That was the whole point of going sailing, to take a real “time out” and do something fun just for me. I had the whole day so the hour and a half drive down and back was not rushed. We saw eagles and turkey vultures flying over the bluffs around the river. It was a lazy day, but a stimulating one. I love being on the water. It relaxes me in a way that nothing else can.
I haven’t really been sailing. I’ve been on a catamaran on the ocean. I’ve been in canoes. I’ve been in motor boats and pontoon boats. I’ve always wanted to sail. There’s something about the water and the wind that appeals to my sense of imagination. It seems like there’s a freedom in sailing. The potential is there for speed, but also quiet.
We spent all afternoon on the water. When we came back to the marina and got the boat put away for the evening I felt I’d made a new friend in Captain Beth. My first words ashore were, “Can we do it again!?”
I think it’s important for all of us to treat ourselves on occasion. Sometimes that’s a quiet solitary retreat. Sometimes that’s trying something new and challenging. Sometimes that’s making a dream come true. Whatever it is I am starting to be more aware of things that actually feed my soul. I’m starting to prioritize making those things happen for me more frequently.
It’s challenging to do things “just for me.” I’m finding it’s also very worth the effort.
Have you ever had that perfect storm of a day where every one thing adds on to the trouble of the last, ending in disaster? Have you ever had a lovely simple plan fall into a deep abyss of obstacles and limitations until you just had to let go?
That was last Friday for me. I had the perfect storm of physical trauma and pain landing me in the ER for the weekend. Now I’m back at Monday knowing the only thing I can do is pick up the pieces.
Resilience, the ability to recover quickly, to bounce back, is easy to measure in physical terms. It’s harder when you start looking at bouncing back from an emotional blow. The thing is, we live in our bodies and very often those physical traumas carry an emotional impact as well.
I find it helps to recognize that I have choices about my point of view. I can choose to see this as starting over from scratch, or I can choose to see it as a fresh start. I can choose to focus on the limitations or I can be grateful for all the help and support I receive. I can choose to continue to be miserable, or I can choose to pick myself up and move forward – wherever that might take me.
It’s like rebooting the computer. Sometimes things get stuck, there’s a little glitch. A quick turn it off and turn it back on again straightens the world around and gets things moving. I’d like to think that’s what this weekend was for me. A reboot. A little “enforced time out” to regroup and get my body back on track. A reminder to take things slowly and not try to do too much, too fast.
The tricky part is not to do too little either. It’s okay to get a little tired. It’s not okay to get tired because I’m bored from sitting around all day doing nothing. It’s okay to take it slow, it’s not okay to always take the easy way out. It’s another one of those balancing acts that changes every day. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised if I don’t always get it quite right!
With all this talk of surgery and recovery you can imagine I’ve spent a good amount of time in the last month sitting around at home. As soon as I was cleared to start driving again the world seemed to open up to me. So why am I feeling housebound?
With most abdominal surgeries there is a period of time when it’s important to restrict the amount of lifting you do. With this one, the general rule of thumb is “if it hurts don’t do it.” That’s really not a good guideline for me. Those muscles are not in great shape to begin with. This isn’t my first abdominal surgery. (It’s my 5th.) The likelihood of complications, even this far out, is just a little higher than “normal”.
Pain and I have agreed to pretty much ignore each other as we go about our business. One of the things I’m learning is to allow myself to pay a little more attention to how things actually feel (as opposed to how they relatively feel.). On my 1-10 scale childbirth comes in at a high 7/low 8 and I can’t remember the last time I was below a 3 without serious medication. If I notice it hurts, I’ve already done way too much.
Secondly, I have this “daily life” thing that requires unusual lifting. Daily tasks that once I start, I can’t really stop. I sat down with my Doctor at my post-op appointment and talked to her about it. You see, I have Orion. If I go anywhere I have to lift his wheelchair in and out of the car. It’s an ultralight chair, but after you add the seating system in it still weighs a little over 35 lbs. That may not seem like much, but it’s not a straight lift. It’s up and then in.
“Oh NO.”, my Doctor says, “You can’t be doing that! This was major surgery. We did a lot in there and I don’t want you pulling stiches. Don’t even think about starting to try something like that until you’re at LEAST 6 weeks out.”
Then I mentioned the other “lift” that I might do. Orion is tiny. He weighs 97 pounds. He manages most of his transfers on his own. However, there is this transfer into the tub….. I watched my hispanic doctor turn white as a sheet. I have an appointment to see her again in 3 months. She might be willing to at least talk about it then.
So my schedule is interrupted by visits from Orion’s Dad, who comes by to give him a bath. I have freedom of movement, more or less, during the few hours Orion is off to his day program. But I’m still feeling housebound.
I can’t take Orion anywhere. I need to call on someone to get him to his doctors because I can’t load the chair in and out of the car. I can’t run off to the local afternoon farmers market, a trip he usually enjoys, for the same reason. I can’t take him to the hospital to visit his Godmother, who just had knee surgery. I can’t go anywhere all day on Saturday because there’s no day program on the weekend. Orion and I can’t even go to the movies because I can’t walk that far, much less push him.
Luckily I do have friends who are sympathetic. I have so much to be grateful for that way. I’m looking forward to a trip to the movies this week with a friend and Orion. I’ve got a dinner date planned (sushi is a soft food, right?) I’ve even been encouraged to make arrangements for Orion so I can spend a day sailing.
September is coming soon. I’ll still need a hand with Orion on the distances and rough terrain, but I’m sure my friends will come through there as well. The best cure for cabin fever – get out with a good friend.