Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Sometimes it's hard, when things aren't going as well as you would like, to remember just how lucky you are. When your aches and pains and ailments seem to keep piling up on top of one another, it's hard to step back and say to yourself, "Hey. I woke up today. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat. I have the strength to get out of bed, play with my kids who are healthy and happy, cook dinner for my family, and maybe even run some errands. My back may hurt, and I may not have the energy I did 20 years ago, my life may not be perfect, but I am still blessed beyond measure to have this day." It's all too easy to lose sight of all the blessings that you have, and focus on what you think is missing.


My uncle is in the hospital right now. He has severe COPD and also suffered a heart attack. He was on and off a ventilator and in a propofol induced coma for several days. He has only in the last couple of days been transferred to a step down room and is able to breathe on his own. But because he was unable to breathe and deprived of oxygen for some time, there is also concern about neurological involvement. And of course, how the COPD will continue to affect him in the future. Thankfully he is improving, but for several days, it was truly one day at a time.

My mother and father have friends that they have known since childhood. Friends that, long after graduating high school in 1968 and 1969, remain in close contact. Bill and his wife Sherry are two of those friends. Sherry had a stroke several years ago, but with a lot of work and rehab, she had managed to get well. She had another massive stroke this past Sunday, July 14th. She was declared brain dead and removed from life support the next day. This morning, after a week of lying in a hospital room, slowly dying, Sherry passed away.

A man that I graduated high school with, who is 39 years old, was diagnosed two years ago with cancer. He was initially given a good prognosis by his doctors and was confident that, with chemo and surgery, he would win the battle against cancer. He and his wife were so confident in fact, that they decided to have another baby, a son, who is now not yet a year old. But the chemo didn't shrink the cancer like they had hoped. And surgery somewhere along the line was no longer an option. And now he is in a hospital room, with Stage IV cancer, not only battling the disease, but also the long list of complications that have arisen to accompany it. He wakes up grateful for each new day that he has to spend with his wife and sons, because there is no guarantee that another day will come.

The truth is, none of us are guaranteed another day. Whether we are in the best shape of our lives, or battling a terminal disease, there simply is no guarantee of another day. So while it is all too easy to get sucked up into a "woe is me" attitude because you don't feel well or money is tight these days or something didn't work out the way you'd hoped, it is important to put your life into perspective and count your blessings. You should live every day as if it were your last day, because there's no guarantee that it won't be. Today I am alive. My children are healthy and happy. I have already had a lion's share of hugs and kisses and "I Love You"s today. My husband is safe and not in a warzone. My son is distraught because he doesn't have any pixie dust to make him fly. And my daughter is...reorganizing...every dvd we own. Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings. My cup runneth over.

Monday, July 15, 2013


The last week has been...devastating. It's hard to even put my feelings into words, but I'm going to try. But to really understand the full scope of my devastation, you have to know the whole story.

I have been overweight my entire life. I came into this world weighing 9 lbs and 1 oz, double chin, buddha belly, fat rolls on the arms and legs, the whole bit. My mother weighed about 100 pounds and was a size five when she became pregnant with yours truly. My father, on the other hand, was always a big guy.

When I was a child, I was never home. Every waking moment of my life, I was outside. I loved to ride my bicycle around the block and through the neighborhood. I played non-stop, everyday, until it was time to come in for supper. Then I would eat dinner with my family, maybe watch a little tv on the couch with my Dad, and then I went to bed. I did not sit at home all day long, with an open bag of potato chips in my lap, mindlessly eating junk food while I watched soap operas and gained weight. I did what every kid did. And I gained weight.

When I started going to school, a private Christian school, was when I became aware of the fact that I was fat. My fellow classmates were nice enough to tell me this. Every day. Whether it was the boy in 6th grade who yelled out "BOOM BOOM!!" every time I took a step up the stairs. Or the fact that I was never invited to parties in high school. No one ever asked me to be in the homecoming pictures with all their girlfriends. I doubt they even noticed that I was not asked to, nor did I attend, my Senior Prom. I'm also certain that they never cared that I came home from school every day wishing that I could go to sleep, and never wake up again.

I went to college. On a scholarship. Thankfully, I was blessed with a reasonable amount of intelligence. And since I hadn't had any sort of social life in high school, I had plenty of time for studying. Same thing in college. I didn't bother pledging a sorority, because I knew I wouldn't get in. I never went to frat parties. I did not have one single date in four years of college. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.95 GPA. I had managed to get through four years of college making only two B's, both of which were in one credit hour courses. I did so well in fact, that I was able to graduate college a semester early. But I doubt anyone noticed that I wasn't there when they all came back for the spring semester of our senior year.

My best friend in college, who I would say I ate 80% of my meals with during those 3 1/2 years, said something to me once that I don't think I will ever forget. She said "I eat with you all the time. I see what you eat and how much you eat. You don't eat any differently than the rest of us. I just don't understand why you're so overweight when you're just like everyone else." The truth is, I asked myself the same questions all of the time. Why me? Why me?

I hear skinny people say things all the time like "If you would eat better and exercise, you would lose weight." I eat the same thing the rest of my family eats. And less of it. And I still gain weight. At my highest weight, I was 356 pounds. Now, imagine for a moment if you will, trying to maintain the same level of activity that you currently do, while carrying a 200 pound man on your back. Every time you climb a flight of stairs, imagine doing it with a 200 pound man on your back. Every time you run five miles, imagine doing it with a 200 pound man on your back. Every time you do your cross fit or your yoga or your pilates or whatever it is you do, imagine doing it with a 200 pound man on your back. I did everything, from sun up to sun down, with a 200 pound man on my back. And then after a lifetime of battling an enemy that I could not defeat, I had gastric bypass.

Not long after I had my bypass, I developed a kidney stone and had to have it removed. Then, I started throwing up everything I attempted to eat. Or drink. I couldn't even get water to stay down. I was dropping weight like a brick because I was literally starving to death. My hair was falling out in clumps. I felt faint at work one day and when they checked my blood sugar level, it was 42. And you know what? I didn't tell my doctor. I didn't tell her because I knew something was wrong, and I knew if I told her, she would fix it, and the weight would stop coming off like it was. One of the other doctors in her surgical group heard me mentioning at work one day (I worked in the recovery room at the hospital where I had my gastric bypass) that I wasn't keeping anything down. He called my doctor. Within minutes she was calling me on the phone and telling me that I had to go to a gastroenterologist immediately. I didn't want to go, but I did. Because I was told that if I didn't, I could die.

I had developed a stricture where my new golf ball sized stomach emptied into my intestine. The passageway had narrowed to 3mm, the size of an extra fine mechanical pencil lead. It would have to be stretched, over four sessions, so that I would be able to actually eat again. I didn't want to do it. I was finally on my way to being skinny, and I almost didn't care that I might die in the process. But ultimately, I gave in and had the procedure.

At my lowest weight after my bypass, I had lost 140 pounds. I had gone from barely squeezing into a size 28, to comfortably wearing an 18. I met Shaun. We got married. I immediately got pregnant. I gained 40 pounds when I was pregnant with Jameson. About half of that came off after he was born, but half of it hung on. Then I got pregnant with Fallon, and I gained 50 pounds with her. Again, half of it came off, but half of it stuck around. So between the two of them, I've gained about 40 of the 140 pounds that I lost after bypass back. Still 100 pounds less than what I weighed before surgery, but nowhere near what I was hoping to achieve by having my stomach cut out. And now, five years after surgery, I'm "malnourished" because I'm unable to absorb the nutrients out of the foods and pills I take. So I may be anemic for the rest of my life and will have to have regular IV iron infusions in order to maintain a normal iron level. Yay me.

So here I am, about to turn 40, I've spent my life despising my body because I'm constantly being reminded by everyone that I don't fit into the box that everyone is supposed to fit into. I won't even let my husband see me naked, because after losing weight and having two gigantic babies, I look like I carried that 200 pound man in my gut, not on my back. I never, ever, feel sexy. I question why my husband loves me and am constantly doubting his love. And I'd finally been approved to have surgery to remove this abhorrent flabby fatty flesh, and then it all just fell apart, all because I'm anemic, because I had gastric bypass, because I wanted to be thin. Isn't that just some fucking irony?

When my surgeon called me last week and told me that the insurance company wasn't going to re-authorize my surgery, I completely fell apart. I sat outside and wailed while my husband sat next to me with his arm around me, trying to console me. I screamed and I yelled and I hit things, and then I just sat and sobbed and told him that he just didn't understand what it was like to hate your own body every minute of every day. To be so uncomfortable in your own skin that you didn't even want your husband and father of your children to see you naked. To dread family pictures because you don't want to be the one to ruin a perfectly lovely picture of everyone else. To look at all of the other women in your family, and wonder why you're the one who had to be like this. And to fear, every minute of every day, that one day my children might have to experience the things that I have and it will obviously be all my fault.

At this point, I just have to stop hoping and praying to be thin, and start hoping and praying for some kind of peace and contentment with my body. Of course, it would help if everyone else would stop reminding me that I'm fat.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

This is how tequila works...

So, my husband "liked" this post on facebook last night. Ordinarily I don't pay much attention to what he "likes" because it's usually something related to his work in the Army or his love for firearms. But last night, this one in particular certainly garnered my attention, and I was at once both shocked and wounded that it was something that he would have ever thought to "like."

The picture, as you can see, shows an overweight woman as a blur in the background, but as the man looks at her through one of many empty shot glasses, she appears to be thin and busty, of course. And the caption reads "This is how tequila works." Now, we've all heard jokes about beer goggles and coyote ugly. About how alcohol seems to make going home with the bottom of the barrel tolerable at the time. But when I look at this picture, what I see sober man would choose to go home with this woman. Despite her seemingly beautiful smile or her confidence or her personality. Without the power of inebriation, this woman is going home alone. And lets face it, even if some guy is so desperate to get laid that he does go home with her, she's never going to hear from him again once morning rolls around and he's gotten what he needs.

None of this is anything new. The asshole who made up this picture hasn't exactly broken new ground in the fat girl humor department. In fact, my initial reaction to the picture was "Hey, tequila works like that for women too. Except it doesn't improve your physical appearance. It just makes you seem like less of a fucking asshole." The picture itself, while not exactly an ego-booster, isn't what upset me. It's that MY HUSBAND "liked" it. Now, as far as I know, the first time he asked me out, he wasn't drunk. The first time we were intimate, he wasn't drunk. He definitely wasn't drunk when he proposed or on the two separate occasions that we got married. In fact, in the four+ years that we've been married, I can count on maybe three fingers the number of times I would say he was actually drunk.

As someone who has waged an all out war with my weight of my life, the fact that my husband "liked" this picture, quite frankly, scares me a little. I had gastric bypass in 2008, my great last bastion of hope that I could lose weight. I lost about 150 pounds, not nearly as much as I had hoped. We met and married when I was at my lowest weight. And then I got pregnant with his children and managed to gain about 50 of those pounds back while growing, birthing and raising two ten pound babies. I am not thin. I, in fact, more closely resemble the blurry woman in the background of this picture than the little tart in the glass. As we speak, I am battling severe anemia trying desperately to get the situation under control so a plastic surgeon will proceed with my extended abdominoplasty, during which she will slice me open from hip to hip, pull my skin up to my rib cage, cut out all of the fat and extra tissue, tighten my abdominal muscles like a corset, stretch the skin as tight as humanly possible, and then reposition my navel in an appropriate place. I will have an 18 inch incision, a wound vac, and two vacuum drains. All so I can have a flatter stomach. So that maybe my husband won't wake up one day and decide he doesn't want to be with me any more.

So what's the moral of this story? There isn't one. Except maybe that if you're married to someone who is at the very least a little sensitive about their weight, then "liking" the fat girl meme on facebook just isn't cool.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life...

Sometimes, often actually, I find myself pondering this life that I live. Some people might find my life mundane, and I suppose I might think the same if the 35 years that led up to the last 4 years hadn't been so miserable.

I spent the first 35 years of my life pretty unhappy, in general. There were, of course, moments. Milestones in life that I was proud of, family get-togethers, the occasional trip out of town to some place new, and time spent with a handful of good friends that I had managed to separate from the chaff. But, most of the time, I was a lonely, overweight, and sad individual. And after 35 years, I had pretty much given up all hope of ever finding someone to love that would actually love me back, and I had definitely given up on ever being a mother.

For most of those first 35 years, I bounced back and forth between believing that God didn't exist, and believing that He had simply abandoned me. I felt like I was being punished. I felt like He had either forgotten I was alive, miserable and alone, or that the life He had given me was just a part of His twisted sense of humor. Either way, it seemed painfully obvious that He had no intention of making my dreams of love and children come true. My heart ached for things that everyone else seemed to get so easily, but that were never within my reach.

But then finally, at the ripe OLD age of 35, I finally found my somebody to love. And he loves me back. And then we had two phenomenally beautiful, smart and loving children. And maybe my mundane little life doesn't seem all that exciting to other people, but to me it's just plain heaven. I remember when Shaun and I got married and were on our way to Kansas, our mutual friends in the military all joked and made fun that Fort Riley, KS was the place where dreams went to die. But that has not been my experience at all. In fact, the place where dreams go to die is the place where all my dreams came true. The place where the giant gaping hole in my soul was finally filled up with hugs and kisses and the sound of children playing. The place where God finally remembered that I was here.

I used to hate my life. I dreaded waking up every single day. But I realize now that everything happens when it is meant to happen. If I had found love with someone else earlier in life when I was so desperate for it, I wouldn't have had Jameson and Fallon. I might have had kids, but not these two kids. And while these two children are certainly not without their issues, they are the perfect children for me, and I am the perfect momma for them. And while Shaun and I are each flawed in our own ways, together I think we make a pretty great team. Our marriage is a partnership, the way we both grew up believing marriage should be based on the model set forth by our parents. I love him while leading him in the direction he needs to go, and he loves me while holding me back from the things that aren't good for me.

I still remember how lonely and painful my life was for such a long time, but it makes me look at the life I have now with such amazing gratitude. I feel so incredibly blessed every single day. Even when something bad happens, I'm still able to focus on the big picture and remind myself that my life is nothing short of wonderful. Instead of feeling alone and abandoned, I feel like God always has His hand on me and my family, holding us together in good times and in bad. And maybe for those first 35 years, He hadn't forgotten me or abandoned me at all, but He was just holding me back from settling for something far less amazing than what He had in store for me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Yesterday, I asked a friend of mine who recently had a baby how she liked motherhood. Her response was not what I was expecting, though it should have been exactly that. She said she loved her baby, and that he was awesome, but that she didn't feel like "the mommy" yet. And then she asked me if I had felt like the mommy as soon as my son was born, or if it had "clicked" somewhere down the road.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was in shock. I didn't think I could get pregnant, so when I found out that I was, it took...a while...before it really sank in. I wasn't able to work while I was pregnant because there was a very real risk that I would miscarry. And so my career, part of what had really defined me for many years, was suddenly on hold. So in a matter of a month, I had gone from a single career-oriented woman, to a married Army wife and soon to be mom with no job and no real sense of self. I was thrilled that I was pregnant, because I had always wanted to have children. But the way it happened was not how I imagined it would be.

And there's the rub. Whether it's how or when we got pregnant, or what kind of mother we ultimately become, it's never how we planned it. I always thought that I would have a baby on my own, and that once the baby was born, I would go back to work and still be myself...just with a kid. But I got pregnant unexpectedly, after an unexpected marriage to a man who left for Iraq only a few months after we were married and I got pregnant. And so when my son was born, with no new husband there the way you imagine he will be when you get married, I was still trying to be the old me. The old me with the same friends, the same interests, the same selfish decision-making...just with a kid. My life had changed drastically in nine short months, and I was still clinging to the way things had been.

And then I had a wreck. A horrible, traumatic, twisted metal and shattered glass kind of wreck. My collar bone snapped and my head slammed into the side windshield giving me a giant hematoma on the side of my head while my car flipped and crashed and ultimately landed in a giant mud pit. And when the car finally stopped moving, it "clicked." I couldn't hear my son. There wasn't any movement. There wasn't any crying. It was just the eerie silence of five a.m. on the interstate in the middle of nowhere. And my heart just...stopped. And it didn't start beating again until I stuck my head through the shattered door window and saw his beady little eyes staring at me in the dark with a look of wonder and confusion. The ambulance showed up and was trying to assess my injuries and put me in a c-spine, but I wouldn't let them do anything for me until they checked Jameson. And when the paramedic came and told me that he was perfectly fine, not so much as a scratch on him, I burst into tears and was suddenly overcome with pain. My shoulder and my head throbbed. But he was ok, and that was all that mattered. And from that moment on, things were different.

Now, I'm not saying that women shouldn't expect to feel like the mommy until they've survived some kind of traumatic event. I could have just as easily experienced the "click" the first time I heard him say "momma," or any number of other random, seemingly mundane things that happen with kids. But for me, that was when I suddenly felt like "the mommy."

I never did go back to work. I had a daughter and now my full-time job is being the mommy to two kids. Sometimes I struggle with feeling like I have no identity anymore outside of being "the mommy." And sometimes I wonder if I would be happier if I went back to work and put the kids in daycare. But for me, with the transient, far from family life that we lead as a military family, that doesn't feel like the right choice for me and my kids. But, I am a remarkably calmer and more relaxed mommy now that I have two. I used to worry about every little thing with Jameson, and whenever he didn't reach a developmental milestone at the time specified by Dr. Knowitall in his book "Dr. Knowitall's Guide to Being a Mother," I inevitably blamed myself. Will he be ok as a formula fed baby because I couldn't breastfeed? (huuuuge guilt trip for me) Why is he constipated? When is he going to walk? Why isn't he talking like he should be? Why is he so afraid of other people? Should I send him to preschool or keep him at home? With Fallon, I have figured out the perfect feeding system to keep her pooping, she'll walk when she's ready, it's normal for her to not like strangers at this age, and yes, she'll probably go to preschool when it's time. She's dirty 80% of the time because she is an avid crawler, and I'm not going to limit her explorations because I want her to stay clean, nor am I going to waste precious time with my kids to turn into some psycho germaphobe compulsive cleaner because I don't want her legs to get dirty when she crawls around. It's dirt. She'll live.

We make plans. We have this vision of what kind of parent we will be. As mothers we are pressured from every direction by books, the media, moms who stay home, moms who work, moms who seem to do it all effortlessly but who in reality probably drink themselves into oblivion after the kids go to bed. But there really is no gold standard here. In the end, we are who we are, and that goes for what kind of mommy we are too. All that really matters is love. If you love your kids and you love your life and, most importantly, you love yourself, then you are the mommy that you're supposed to be. And whether you feel like "the mommy," or you feel like the same person you were before you gave birth, but now you have the extra added bonus of an awesome kid, that's completely and totally ok, too.