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The Value of a (French) Quarter

September is a difficult month.  Routines are starting back up again and it seems to all happen at once!  I am barely keeping my head above water right now.  You know it’s bad when you have to schedule your own crying jags (the nightly drive home and Saturday/Sunday afternoon around 4-6 p.m. are favorite times).  The double edged sword of chronic busyness is that you are driven to distraction from whatever in life might be unsettling.  This provides a temporary relief, but eventually the levee breaks and you are forced to face the rush of reality.

Even amidst all of the stress, I do have much to celebrate.  I do love my new job.  The kids are amazing and I enjoy them so much!  If you could only see how funny they are on a daily basis.  To know them really is a gift!  It troubles me that many people I talk to seem to see them only as their disabilities.  They inspire and are examples to us all because of their perseverance.  I am in love with my class already.  I hope I can still say that in about March when we’re all about to strangle each other!

My new third grade choir is a gift as well.  I needed a group like this one to renew my motivation to be creative, planned up, and set high expectations.  I will admit that I grew tired of the Wednesday night routine last year.  Because of this, and my life, and the new job, I opted to let go of Beginning Bells.  I considered stepping back from children’s choir as well, but I did not feel at peace about it.  I am so glad I didn’t quit!  The fact that I still have the opportunity to do church music in this way is something I wish to stop taking for granted.

I am getting to know a lot of new people both at work and at church.  For this I am grateful as well.  I believe God puts the right people in our paths at the right moments to help us on our way.  I celebrate these new friendships!  Their voices have added to the voices already pushing, affirming, blessing, encouraging, and disciplining me in my life each day.

I suppose my celebration of the week, however, has to be the long awaited NOLA trip.  Kaitlin and I (as well as a sizable Texas contingency) hit the road in approximately 32 hours for the ObesityHelp conference.  I hope to hear something that will renew my commitment to my health, of course.  But let’s be honest.  I need to see my Freaks!  I think I need this refreshment now more than ever. Meeting so many fellow freaks in Houston last year really gave me a renewed sense of belonging.  It also motivated me to DO more in the community as an advocate.  I hope to gain even more knowledge and connection in the community this time around.

If you follow the blog and are planning to come to New Orleans, please come introduce yourself!  I’d love to meet you!



Week one of school is done.  I have a very interesting group of kiddos that I’m already quite fond of.  Even the, um, quirky ones.  I believe they are all gifted and are gifts to us!

It is quite the adjustment when previously my primary concern was subject specific curriculum and now I manage all aspects of a child’s day at school.  From the time they arrive to the time they leave, it is my responsibility that their most basic human needs are met in addition to making sure they receive an appropriate education.  It is a daunting challenge, but one that I embrace.  My new mantra is “One day at a time.”  If I can figure out ONE new thing a day, I feel that I have been successful.  So far, this has proven true.  I believe we are off to a good, yet exhausting, school year.

Because I have been so busy, I haven’t had the time to think about…  things…  very much.  That is good, to some degree.  However, when the weekend comes and I have a few minutes of dead time, the grief and uncertainty really washes over me and I’m not sure what the appropriate response should be.  I guess the appropriate response really is to just feel it, embrace it, and know that it gets better with time.

I don’t mean that to sound like I am a basket case.  I think the people who are closest to me would tell you truthfully that I am coping very well, thank you very much.  I am proud of the way I have handled myself in this time.  I pray that I continue to be able to say that.  I reach out when I need to, take my alone and quiet time when I have to, and stay invested in the things in my life that bring peace and fulfillment.

When you see the bubbly, optimistic me…  know that I am not putting on a front.  This is truly my mourning turning into dancing.  Just don’t mistake this for the absence of tears either.  It wouldn’t be real if I didn’t allow the feelings to bubble up from time to time.  And it seems like I have had more of that time this weekend.  Maybe it is partially due to physical fatigue, but still…

Kaitlin and I made a pact to work harder at taking care of ourselves this week.  Busy times seem to lead to failure when it comes to vitamins, exercise, and nutrition.  It’s even worse when wandering through an emotional desert!  I am glad to have the accountability in someone who understands.  Who keeps you accountable for caring for yourself when times are tough?

A Glass Half Full

The new school year starts…  tomorrow.  Yes, that was an audible gulp you heard coming from my end of the computer.  I have a new assignment, newly adjusted body, and a newly adjusted life.  It’s a little much all at once, I must admit.

When I walked in the doors of my school last week, it was like coming home.  I taught in this building when I was completely green in special ed and spent my first three years there.  I saw old faces, familiar places, and I was overjoyed.  So, I have been at my best.  Bubbly, organized, ambitious, and ready to conquer.

I have already stayed late, agonized over decisions, and prayed that everything will turn out alright.  By the time noon arrived yesterday, it hit me how physically and emotionally tired I already am.  And this is BEFORE I see my kids!  Still, I am beyond excited to be doing this new thing.

Along with all the other changes happening, I have felt lately like I’m walking on a suspension bridge.  Trying very hard to stay focused, keep my equilibrium, and keep my feet moving straight ahead without stumbling.  Not easy when the emotions are all over the map.  I am praying constantly right now that my eyes would be fixed on the things that matter and that the things that do not matter would fade away in significance.  Once again I am thankful for the friends God has put in my path to help put things in perspective.  I am thankful for my job and my church who remind me of my purpose when the going is tough.  I am thankful for music that expresses what mere words do no justice for.  This is what helps me keep my head up.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

A new day is dawning. The 2011-12 school year is breathing down the back of my neck like a hungry bear stalking its prey. I am drowning in an avalanche of papers and chasing a to-do list that is 9 miles long. Yep. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I am also optimistic and I still have my sense of humor. It will all fall into place. I think? I hope?

Getting back into the work routine provides an opportunity for me to reevaluate other areas where my self-discipline has slacked off.  Being home on summer break and also in recovery mode has reacquainted me with my lazy old grazing habit.  I snack randomly with no plan in place.  Not only that, but I haven’t been tracking any of my nutrition or water intake with the online tools I usually use.  I haven’t been exercising, because I wasn’t medically cleared to do so.  And because I’m not running,  I’m not getting my usual dose of endorphins from physical activity (leading to more grazing). I stopped taking my vitamins, under the advisement of my surgeon, prior to my skin removal.  Ever since then, my vitamin intake has been sporadic at best. Basically, all the things that make one a successful RNY post-op have fallen by the wayside in recent days.

I will not make excuses.  Life has been messy, but neglecting myself will only make it worse.  I have to put myself on a schedule, and fast, so that I can continue to be successful.

I led a discussion in my BBGC North Texas Support Group on Saturday about planning for the busy seasons of life.  How do we stay healthy?  Granted, there always seems to be at least one broken wheel on the wagon, but in general the following things have helped me lose and maintain a 180 170 pound loss.

  • Vitamin supplements according to the ASMBS guidelines and tweaked to reflect the needs on my own labwork
  • Water intake equal to or greater than 64 oz daily
  • Vigorous physical activity 3-5 times weekly
  • Dense protein first, carbs last
  • Logging nutritional intake with particular attention to calories, protein, and carbs.  I don’t watch fat grams, but try concentrate on getting fats from naturally occurring sources (olive oil, fish, nuts, avocado, etc.).

Is that what’s happening right now?  You can bet my Sonic Chicago Hot Dog that it isn’t.  However, when I go back to these basics, I know that I feel so much better.  I feel healthier and more energetic.  It feels like the engine burns a little cleaner.  Beyond just feeling physically better, my whole self concept seems to improve.  I feel strong because I know I am doing something good for myself.  And right now, with everything going on around me, taking care of myself is even more important.

Recommitting to making a plan and following through.  Starting NOW!

Another Year Bolder

Now that I have THAT out there, I can take a deep breath and start talking again.  I had a birthday recently (I am still accepting gifts…  How about a donation to my Walk From Obesity fundraiser?) and I’m obviously experiencing some big changes in my life.  What does all of this mean?  It’s time to take stock of where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I want to end up.

In other words, GOAL SETTING!

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

Goal #1 – Be an athlete.

Four weeks ago, I had my first reconstructive procedure.  It basically was a panniculectomy with some cosmetic improvements thrown in.  I think this has made my recovery easier than if I had undergone an abdominoplasty as I previously thought I was having.  However, I am still not 100% and will not start exercising for at least another week.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to put some dates on my calendar to motivate me to keep moving forward.  I want to become stronger physically over the next year, improving upon what I have already started.  I am currently working towards the following events for fall/winter:

Walk from Obesity – September 24

Hell Run – November 19

Dallas White Rock (Half) Marathon – December 4

Aramco Houston Half Marathon – January 15

Full marathon in spring 2012???

To celebrate my first post-plastics running season, I got a new pair of running shoes at Rogue Running in Austin.  I am excited about this particular pair because I was able to purchase a lighter shoe (my previous shoes were a heavier stability shoe).  And just look at them!!!  Fun colors!

Saucony Progrid Mirage

It isn’t just running that I’m interested in.  I want to find an affordable way to participate in yoga on a regular basis.  I really enjoyed my trial period of hot yoga, but with my financial goals, I cannot be a regular attendee at that particular studio at this time.  However, yoga is great for me as someone who has been injury prone as well as prone to anxiety attacks in the past.  I would love to take some dance based classes too.  Maybe belly dancing?  Some kind of country dancing?  Heck, I haven’t tried Zumba and I’d love to do that too!


“Not in his goals, but in his transitions is man great.”

Goal #2 – Be an advocate

As most of you know, my pal Kaitlin and I recently got together to start the BBGC North Texas Support Group.  We felt that our group might particularly meet the needs of those who are more than two years out, have perhaps had surgery revisions, and otherwise may not fit in to traditional surgery support groups.  I am pleased with how things are going so far, but I know we need to keep working to keep the momentum going!  I am excited that many of us will be attending the ObesityHelp conference in New Orleans (get your tickets and use the “meltingmama” code for a discount) this September as well as participating in the Walk From Obesity.  Did I mention that our team is kicking butt?

I want to do more to raise awareness though.  I realize my position as an educator might make an opportunity available to me to influence young people who struggle with obesity.  I also want to get involved in advocacy in other ways.  Shanasparkles the Lobbyist?  Maybe.

“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.”

Goal #3 – Be a real friend

Because I am going through some changes, I am forced to reevaluate many of my relationships.  Namely, I am realizing that I have a tendency to people please.  That perhaps I will work too hard to keep the peace and thus my own boundaries are violated.  In fact, in some cases I am not sure where the boundary line actually should be!  With me, I realize it generally boils down to a resistance to using the word “no.”  I want people to be happy with me and it bothers me immensely when I know someone is disappointed.  This need for external validation causes me to get sucked in to circumstances, at times, that are less than comfortable.

People with low self-esteem have their major difficulties in relationships with others. This is because they are unable to establish healthy boundaries or limits with people. The reason, for this inability, is that with low self-esteem comes a variety of irrational thoughts, emotions and actions which leads people to lose themselves in relationships with others. This absorption of self into others leads to a loss of personal internal control. People with low self-esteem have a weakened “internal locus of control” and become dependent on a strong “external locus of control.” They become victims to being controlled by how others think, feel about and act towards them. People with low self-esteem are dependent on others’ approval and recognition and are therefore fearful of rejection by and conflict with others. It has been estimated in the self-esteem literature that over 90 percent of us are suffering from low self-esteem at one degree or another. Therefore most people in relationships are currently suffering from low self-esteem or recovering from it.  Read more:

“Map out your future, but do it in pencil.”

Goal #4 – Be a self-manager

What the heck does that mean?  It means I want to improve management of my fiscal health, for one:  pay a few things off, give more to my church and to charity, invest more in retirement, and put a few more dollars back to enjoy.  When I look at my budget, I have NO IDEA how that is going to happen, but I can walk The Baby Steps.  It also means that I need to invest some time and energy into completing my principal certification over the next year.  Really, I just lack some professional development and an exam.  I may never use this certification, but completing it is important to me.  The reasons I haven’t finished are really just excuses.  Also, I have a new job this fall.  I know it will be a demanding and challenging time for me.  I strive to achieve the kind of work/life balance that brings feelings of success and contentment even during this transition time.  Living in the balance between active and overcommitted is something I have struggled with often in the past.

See Goal #3.

Overall, self-management is really just another way of saying self-control, isn’t it?  And isn’t it a lack of self-control that leads to overeating, overspending, etc.?

See?  Life after surgery is never just about food…   Life in moderation, here we come.

5 Things I Shall Never Leave the House Without Again

I had a fantastic weekend.  I truly did.  After living in Texas for 10 years, it’s a travesty that I had never seen Austin or San Antonio until this summer.  I did see a bit of Austin a few weeks ago, but that basically amounted to just dinner.  This time, Kaitlin and I decided to tackle both cities, with the help of Travis and Jina.  More about the fun stuff later.

Dinner on Friday night was at El Chapparal in Helotes, Texas.  I do love Mexican food, even if it is high in fat and calories.  I generally feel like I can get a good amount of decent protein and thus I justify my food choices without guilt.  So on this particular evening, I ate in a manner that is typical of me at three years out, splitting an entree with Kaitlin and having a Shiner Bock, but skipping the rice.  Afterward, we went to John T. Floores for the Brandon Rhyder show.  We had some time to kill before he was set to come on stage, so we sat out on the patio.  All of a sudden, I felt nauseous.

I should backtrack by explaining that I had some gut pain for a couple of hours prior to making it to John T. Floores.  I occasionally do experience this, so I took an Ultram before dinner and another after dinner to keep it at bay.  At the point at which I felt sick, I assumed that a)I was full and maybe was realizing I ate a couple bites too many and b)the nausea was related to the gut pain.

Within seconds, however, I started seeing spots.  I looked up at Kaitlin and Travis (I was seated on a stool) and I saw Travis mouth “Are you okay?”  I couldn’t speak.  I was able to shake my head no.  That’s it.

Kaitlin explains that at this point, I appeared to be having an absence seizure.  I have been told before that this is what it looks like when I’m having extreme low blood sugar.  I blacked out momentarily and slowly started coming to.  I couldn’t shake it off, but I was trying.  Kaitlin had a protein bar out of her purse and I had glucose tabs in my own purse.  I still wasn’t coherent enough to put them in my mouth.

So, what was happening to me?  It’s often talked about in weight loss surgery circles these days, but generally by those who are already suffering from it.  It is not discussed frequently enough in pre-op education as one of the common complications of RNY Gastric Bypass.  Here’s a great explanation from Kaitlin at The Bypassed Life.

What Is Reactive Hypoglycemia?

Reactive hypoglycemia is low blood sugar that typically occurs one to three hours after eating. Experts speculate that it is the result of an excessive insulin response. The body releases insulin in response to a carbohydrate meal, but the insulin response continues past the digestion of the meal and the disposal of the glucose derived from the meal. Symptoms may include shakiness, lightheadedness, sleepiness, anxiety, or confusion.

The Gastric Bypass Connection

Reactive hypoglycemia is common after gastric bypass surgery because of the lack of a pylorus. Following gastric bypass, food passes through the pouch via the stoma. In many cases, this can occur relatively rapidly, leading to quick absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine. Under normal circumstances, the pylorus gradually introduces food into the small intestine. Following gastric bypass, the mechanism for moderation is removed, and food is “dumped” into the small intestine. This is the same mechanism behind dumping syndrome.

After what seemed like ages,  I came to enough to speak.  My guts hurt too bad to eat the protein bar, but Kaitlin made me do it anyway.  The glucose tabs I keep handy chew down to nothing and that brought me back to coherent almost immediately.  I chugged half of Jina’s water bottle and started feeling present again.  So, I was lucky.  Kaitlin and Travis both knew what to look for and understood what was happening to me and how to help.  But what if I was alone or with people who don’t know how to help?  Here’s five things I will never go without again:

1.  Medical Alert Bracelet

Recently, I donated to Rob Portinga’s (Former Fat Dudes) Dash From Obesity and I won a prize.  WOO!  It was a gift certificate to Lauren’s Hope.  If you don’t know about Lauren’s Hope, you should definitely go check them out.  You can order attractive medical ID bracelets that get the job done, but don’t…  uh…  cramp your style.  This was my second Lauren’s Hope bracelet, and I consider it an investment in my health.  They are beautiful and well made.  I also just ordered my very first Road ID so that I have one that is more rugged to wear when I am running or whatever other madness I get myself into in the future.  Bonus:  at $15.99 it is a much more affordable option than Lauren’s Hope if you are on a tight budget.  On my Road ID, I also added the line that I wear hearing aids.  I typically do not run with them in my ears, so this would alert any medical personnel that they need to speak loudly in order to communicate with me.

My new Lauren's Hope bracelet

I ordered it in pink, of course...

2. ICE (In Case of Emergency) Card

A medical ID tag is entirely too small to contain all the information I might need an EMT to have if I am unable to respond.  Also, I need to provide more than one emergency contact since my family lives far away.  Having a small ICE card with this information, written neatly and concisely, is like an addendum to the alert bracelet I have on my arm.

3.  Glucose Tabs

Because my blood glucose can bottom out at a moment’s notice, it is imperative that I have fast acting glucose tablets in my purse.  They chew down to powder and are thus easy to swallow when I am having gut failure or am not 100% alert.  I know some people use candy instead of glucose tablets to treat low blood sugar, but to me I regard a tablet as “medication” and won’t be tempted to eat it randomly when I am not sick.  When suffering from low blood sugar, chewing 3-4 tablets should bring your levels up to normal within about 15 minutes, but you shouldn’t stop there.  Eat a small snack with both protein and carbs immediately to prevent a second blood sugar crash from occurring.

4.  Protein Bar

With reactive hypoglycemia, it is important to plan ahead to prevent blood sugar crashes.  It is important to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day with a balanced amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates to keep blood sugar levels stable.  Keeping a protein bar handy serves several purposes.  First of all, it is a safety net in case life throws you a curve ball and you are unable to eat a planned meal or snack.  It also serves as an emergency measure to bring up blood sugar in case of a crash.  However, be sure to read the labels on your protein bars.  Many of them are no better than candy bars in terms of nutrition.  Choose something that contains a balanced amount of protein and carbs.   Also be sure to regard them as meal replacements.  They can be quite calorie dense and a hindrance to you if you are still in the losing phase or are having difficulty with maintenance.

5.  Glucose Monitor

After passing out face first in my bedroom over a year ago, I made sure to get to a doctor.  Although that particular instance was related to a fast drop in blood pressure (vasovagal syncope), my doctor and I agreed that it would be good for me to start monitoring my blood sugar.  I had suffered milder symptoms prior to this event that I recognized as being blood sugar related.  I would get shaky, lightheaded, and cranky.  Sure enough, I began catching low blood sugar episodes.  I would be in the 40-60 range without even realizing it.  Normal fasting blood sugar ranges between 70-99.  I do not check my blood sugar daily, but now that I have had two severe crashes in the span of just a few weeks, I have decided to take it upon myself to do multiple checks daily, before and after meals, for a period of time to see if a pattern emerges.

Another note…  Because this was my second episode of this severity in the span of a few weeks, I know I need to be extra vigilant in my food choices and that I need to be prepared for any future occurrences.  I recognize that I have become lax during the lazy days of summer and my recovery from skin removal.  I also need to speak up when I’m not feeling right.  I have a tendency to stay quiet and think I can handle it on my own.  Asking for help right away can prevent serious injury, so don’t be afraid to speak up!  Your friends really do not want you to have a head injury, in spite of any ribbing they may be giving you on a day to day basis!

Willow Tree

I have been struggling with how to get this out there, as I wish to protect my privacy and the privacy of my husband.  However, there is no time like the present…

I have filed for divorce.  It was not a decision arrived at lightly.  I do not wish to get into the details (so don’t ask), as there is no useful purpose in doing so in this space.  However, it affects my journey and I’ve wanted this blog to be as honest as possible.

It is not an easy time, by any means.  It is lonely and scary to start over.  And we had some great times, no doubt.  It is hard to let go, but I do have peace in my heart about it.  Hear me though, when I say there is peace in my heart, I am still feeling the thunder from outside.  Some days are better than others, especially when you factor in an emotional recovery from significant surgery.  And people pleasing Shana is having a hard time accepting that people are disappointed (In me?  My decisions?  Just the circumstance?  I wonder all the time now….).

I am leaning on my network of support right now, which is larger and more compassionate than I previously understood it to be.  Some just remind me that I will be okay when this is all said and done.  Others are there to get my head back on straight when I seem to be unraveling.  I have learned that I am strong like a willow tree.  The wind may blow and bend me, and I may even weep, but I will not break with my roots firmly planted in healthy soil.