Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Perspective’ Category


I was hoping to have a dinner report about a new-to-us place that specializes in hand-pulled ramen and in soup dumplings, but that’s not really gonna happen tonight (although there may be a note on the order the roomie is bringing home for me).

At dinner last Friday, I was sitting next to one person who says she didn’t know she was getting the flu, which attacked her pretty violently Saturday morning. I didn’t know she was sick until two days ago. When I started getting sick on Tuesday, I just figuredit was stuck energy from all the internal growth work I’ve been doing. That happens, and you just get through it.

Wednesday, she sent me an email that she wasn’t joining us this week because she had awakened Saturday with the flu. Thursday, I had the electric blanket on “4”, which I never do, and it barely felt warm. Asked the roomie for the thermometer and, lo and behold, I had a temperature of 101.2. I called the woman and asked what the onset symptoms of her flu were, and they matched mine. Lovely. She kept insisting that I could not have gotten it from her and must have picked it up elsewhere. However, this chain of events is math that even a mathophobe like me can figure out.

Yes, I am sure that she did not intend for me to get sick. I really don’t think most people go around trying to make others lives miserable (well, except maybe my sister, who prides herself on doing just that). What is really annoying me, however, is her continued insistence that she could not have been the source of my flu.

I have an old friend, Naomi. We know each other since 1972, and have each done our share of stupid-ass things over the years, to which the other’s response has always been “I’m gonna kill you, then we’ll do lunch.” The reason this works is that both of us are willing to look at and own the stupid-ass stuff we do.

Anyway, the roomie is going to bring home some soup dumplings, some duck ramen with hand-pulled noodles, and some braised duck for me so I will be able to report on the food if nothing else.

In other news, I got a smaller rollator, and I fit into it! This new rollator weighs about 15 lbs. less than the old one. The roomie was able to carry the whole thing, in the box, from the front door to my room, and it does move easily between the rooms of the house. I gave the old one to a friend for his wife, as a backup.

So, whinge and flu aside, it’s been mostly a good week.

 

 

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I have now lived through another presidential election. It has had its moments of glory, such as being able to vote for the first female presidential candidate of a major party It has had its moments of blindness, like a ton of millennials and others throwing away their votes. It has had its moments of hope, such as listening to Michelle and Barack Obama speak about the future. And it had its moments of shame, as various states were called in favor of a candidate who has shown himself to be one of the most flawed people ever to run for the office.

It is now over. Donald Trump has been elected. Hillary Clinton has conceded. Trump now claims that he will unify the country. I don’t see how he can do so, given the things he has said about so many different groups of people. I admit to some baggage here. As a native New Yorker, my opinion of our new President is slightly lower than my opinion of the late Robert Moses.

I do know that every new President has a learning curve, during which he or she finds out that the powers of the office are not totally unlimited, and that one has to negotiate with others. I also know that, no matter how good or bad Trump turns out to be, if he does not learn, he is likely to be a one-term president.

I think the next four years will be harder for many of us than we were hoping. I expect that important things will be destroyed by the new President, the still Republican Congress, and a split Supreme Court. David Gerrold has an excellent post on Facebook about what we are likely to lose and why.

What many people are refusing to understand though is where and shy this happened. They did not understand how many Americans are frustrated that neither party seemed to be listening to their concerns. They did not learn the lesson of Weimar Germany, where people who were frustrated allowed an evil man to come to power.

For the next four years, we will have to deal with the results of the willful ignoring of the frustrations and issues of people who feel they have lost their way of life. As my mother used to say, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Am I scared for myself? Yes, some. I am 64, Jewish, disabled, and poor. Will I survive this president? Most likely. More than afraid, though, I am sad that Americans seem to choose to not learn from history, Heck, I’m sad that many Americans don’t even know the history of this country. I’m disappointed that after years of fighting for progress, and toward the ideals of our Founding Fathers, many people have chosen a leader who seems hellbent on tearing down that progress.

I am not screaming for armed revolt. I am not planning on running away. I am planning on surviving the next four years, and then working to ensure that we elect a President whose goals and values are closer to mine. I will also try to remember that this election was largely a revolt by the citizens who felt that our leaders were not listening to their needs and issues, and that even as illustrious a Founding Father as Thomas Jefferson recommended revolting when the country’s leaders were not listening to the people they were elected to serve.

I’m not sure any of this is making sense. It’s 4:29 a.m., and I am mostly trying to frame my thoughts as to how to deal with the bitter-to-me loss of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party.

May whatever Deity you believe in sustain you through the next four years.

 


Replying to a comment in my last post got me thinking about the music that has shaped my life.

As anyone who knows me for more than ten minutes knows, one of the two life regrets I have is that I can barely carry a tune on my own. However, I have been a lifelong music fan. (I think the first song I remember hearing on the radio was “Venus,” sung by Frankie Avalon – yes, I AM that old; live with it.)

I was hooked. Not just on the song, but on the way the words and melody fit with each other, the way the sounds came out, the harmonies…. I still am hooked on music all these years later.

As I grew older, I found that the songs I loved had certain characteristics:

  • Often, the singer had an unusual voice
  • There were complexities in the arrangements – harmonies and counterpoints and descants
  • It moved me just by its magnificence
  • It had words that rang true to some part of my life
  • It had something in it that helped me cope somehow with some part of my life or some issue I was struggling with

Fortunately, my parents also liked music – chores were done to the Texaco Sunday Opera in the background; Dad liked pop music, and was often the one staying up late with me to watch the late night music shows. My Grandma was a fan of The Monkees (long story – ask me elsewhere about that). Mom loved musicals and show tunes and musical comedy such as Danny Kaye, and Allan Sherman. The Beatles hit the US when I was in 5th grade, and their excellent lyrics hooked me even more.

When I got old enough, I started hanging out in Greenwich Village – an excellent place for someone who loved music. There, I fell in love with Richie Havens, Raun MacKinnon, Laura Nyro, David Bromberg, Weeden & Finkle (later Finkle, Weeden and Faye), Christine Lavin, a cappella music, Buzzy Linhart, Eric Frandsen, and so many others.

Then prog rock came along. It had all the complexities I loved, plus Chris Squire – a bassist who often played top line leads with his bass. It also has Phil Colllins and Carl Palmer (I love a good drummer – always have) And brought me more to listen to jazz and classical music.

My taste in music has kept expanding as I’ve grown. To this day, I still hear new stuff and fall in love with it. My friend Gundo can tell you about the first time he showed me the video for “Wheels” by the Foo Fighters. I pretty much fell off his couch when it was done. And Marc can tell you about the time at the Nassau Community College Folk Festival I first heard Richie Havens do an a cappella cover of Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away.” I was literally left speechless. Megan could tell you (if she was still alive) about the first time I heard Tom Paxton perform “The Last Thing on My Mind.” Sue can tell you about how watching the 25th anniversary PBS showing of “Les Miz” not only left me speechless, but gave me two new singer obsessions: Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis.

That said, there are songs that have shaped my life. Sue and Marc have seen the looseleaf where I’d been copying lyrics since the first time I saw “Fiddler on the Roof.”

There are all sorts of sources for those songs, so I will list here some of them, in the hope that you may know and feel the same about them.

  • Follow – Richie Havens
  • On the Turning Away – Richie Havens a capella version
  • You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught – from South Pacific
  • If I Loved You – from Carousel
  • No Time At All – from Pippin
  • If I Never Spend a Morning Without You – Andy M. Stewart and Manus Lunney
  • Is A Puzzlement – from The King & I
  • Corner of the Sky – from Pippin
  • The finale of the Firebird Suite – Igor Stravinsky
  • Video – india.arie
  • I’m Still Here – Stepehn Sondheim (as performed by Elaine Stritch)
  • Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) – by Yes
  • Run with the Fox – Chris Squire
  • Too many Paul Simon songs to single any out
  • What Makes you DIfferent (Makes You Beautiful) – Backstreet Boys
  • Too many Christine Lavin songs to single one out
  • Circle of Fifths – Raun MacKinnon
  • The Last thing on My Mind – Tom Paxton
  • Most songs by Allan Sherman
  • Most songs by Tom Lehrer
  • Waving Flag by K’naan
  • Take me to the Alley by Gregory Porter
  • Bring Him Home – from Les Miz
  • Way too many other songs to enumerate

So, these are some of the songs that have shaped me in one way or another, and why music is so important to me.


Sigh. I know, I know. It’s been way too damned long since I’ve even tried to write anything.

I do have a good excuse, though. I had spinal surgery (nerve decompression and laminectomy from L3 to S1) on 27 September, and sitting up to type has been more than I could do for a long time.

One of my conditions for letting the surgeon have at me was that my rehab would be at home; my six weeks in a rehab over the late spring/early summer convinced me that I never want to be in a rehab/nursing home again. Fortunately, my surgeon, the most excellent Soriaya Motivala, believes that you make more progress at home, and faster than in a rehab, so that was no problem. Once the infection was cleared up for good (I had to wait a month after the stint in the rehab to make sure it was all gone), everything – except me – moved pretty quickly. I saw Dr. Motivala in early September, and we set up the surgery date.However, her assistant, the otherwise wonderful Jennifer, forgot to tell me that now that I was a cardiac patient I would need more than just a clearance from my primary care guy. This meant that on the 16th I got a call from the hospital noting that none of my paperwork had come in. So, I then had to set up all of the clearances except my primary care guy (who I had seen the day before). Between Naomi Moslow and the roomie, I made all the clearances in time, which was amazing.

The surgery took place, as planned, and I’ve been recovering since. I was released from the hospital on 1 October – just in tie for the High Holy Days.

Unfortunately, due to the need for the surgery, I missed a lot of stuff during the summer/early fall, including a wedding, a funeral, and – most important to me – the dedication of the Torah that my cousin Mitch’s synagogue had commissioned in his memory. I’d really been looking forward to that, but it was two days before my surgery, and I realized that there was just no way I could do a ride up to Mount Kisco, sit through the ceremony and the meal after, and then ride back. Since I didn’t want to take attention from the ceremony, I stayed home, instead. This coming Monday, I will be missing the funeral of a fannish acquaintance for the same reason. I have spoken to one of the friend’s kids, and since he’s also had similar surgery to mine, he understands why I won’t be there.

I have to admit, the healing process has been much slower than I would like, which I attribute to my weight as well as my age. Let’s face it: you just don’t heal as easily at 64, while carrying a lot of extra weight, as you do at 24 while carrying much less extra weight. I have not given up on relosing the weight, however; to date, I have dropped 64 lbs. I still have a ways to go to reach my goal, but I will get there. It’s been an even more interesting journey this time, since I decided when I rejoined Weight Watchers, that when stuff came up, I would deal with it, rather than just brushing it aside for later. I also made a decision that seems, in retrospect, to be one of the smartest decisions I’ve made around weight – since I am not expending anywhere near the number of calories I used to when I could go walking every day, I cut down the amount of food I was eating proportionately.

I got a huge piece of the puzzle of me the other week, and I’m still processing how to deal with it. I had ordered a lamp, and it needed different bulbs than the lamp I was replacing. My ex went off to get the proper bulbs, and I was lying in bed crying. The roomie said to me, “Deb, it’s okay. It was just a stupid mistake.” My response, which I never expected, was, “But I’m not allowed to make mistakes.”

Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but my father used to beat the mess out of my sister and me if we made mistakes, no matter how small, so I had apparently internalized this, and carried it with me for my whole life. Now that I know it’s there, though, I can work on reminding myself that I AM allowed t make mistakes. I can also give thanks that while I carried this around for most of my 64 years, I don’t have to carry it around for my 65th year.

In other medical news, and this relates back to the weight a bit, my doctors have finally adjusted my blood pressure meds to reflect the weight loss. The industrial amount of diuretics they had been giving me were so extreme that I was totally dehydrated, no matter how much liquid I drank. For a while, the doctors were so pleased with my readings that they were weaning me off the drugs at the rate of one per visit, but when it took the cardiologist three tries to even find my blood pressure, they decided to cut all but one of the blood pressure meds. We are all still watching my readings (my cousin the doctor suggested I get a home monitor, so I could take morning and evening readings and show them to my primary care guy), but so far everything seems to be okay. As I rehydrated, I gained a little weight, but my legs now look like legs instead of bones covered with skin.

So, on the whole, things are improving – even if it’s not as fast as I would have it happen.On the other tentacle, one thing I learned after my heart surgery in 2014 is that it remains important to be kind to myself. In this case, that means listening to my body and doing things when it is ready to do them, rather than trying to hurry things up.

I will try to write more regularly again, but I am making no promises at this point. I am hoping to write at least once a week, but it depends on how well sitting up goes on any particular day.


Onward

by Chris Squire
recorded by YES on their Tormato album

 
Contained in everything I do
There’s a love I feel for you
Proclaimed in everything I write
You’re the light, burning brightly

Onward through the night
Onward through the night
Onward through the night of my life

Displayed in all the things I see
There’s a love you show to me
Portrayed in all the things you say
You’re the day leading the way

Onward through the night
Onward through the night
Onward through the night of my life

Onward through the night
Onward through the night
Onward through the night of my life


 

This is the song that is going through my head after what can only be described as a day of being tested at every turn.

This entry is something of an update to the last one, as well as a note on yesterday.

On the 27th, I had a meeting with the heads of PT and Nursing, as well as my social worker. Found out a few things that the hospital hadn’t told me. One of those things was that at the end of my stay here I would not be sent back to the hospital for reassessment, as the hospital had told me, but would be sent home – with home care – for at least a few weeks so that they could make sure the infection is really gone for good. Not fun, and it means that my whole summer will probably be shot dealing with this. As I noted before, however, if it means getting real mobility back, it’s worth it.

I was also told that the reason the home care guy called the roomie and my medical executors is that he needs to talk with the folks who will be my main support system while I am at home. So I need to have them call him back, and soon.

I have been making progress, though. I can just about fully sit up off the left side of the bed, without using my cane to help. Not sure how far I can go on the right side yet, but I will keep working on it. I can also raise the head of the bed to almost vertical, and stay there for a bit before the pain sets in. This is important because I need to be able to stand before I go home, so I need to build those muscles up.

Things have also been coming to a head with a close friend who has been ignoring her own health issues. I spent much of the last two evenings trying to get her to see sense, and I am now leaving it in God’s hands. I love this friend dearly, but I need to take care of me now, so that I am able to care for others when needed.

Wednesday started with it taking almost two and a half hours to get someone to disconnect the IV, and rapidly continued downhill. My glasses frame broke (the roomie is bringing my spares when she comes today); meds were delivered late all through the day; friend who was supposed to bring dinner had neither shown up or called by 8:30 pm, so roomie went to the fast food place across the street for me; had a very rare (for me, anyway) attack of gas and diarrhea, the friend with dinner showed up about 11:45 pm; and – finally – when I picked up my beads for meditation, they broke in my hand. (I was able to recover all but one bead. Roomie is bringing a replacement bead, my needles, and some thread later, so I can fix it, and I’ve ordered a new one online.) This was about ten minutes after I had sent the friend home, so I had to try to find the beads while lying mostly flat. Found all but one, which was pretty good.

I am trying to look at this whole day as a day of being tested, rather than as a day filled with frustrations. It’s not the easiest switch in perception to make, but it is one of the things I am working on as part of my goal to getting back on my path. I may not be able to hold that perception for very long, but at least I am learning to try to make the distinction.


I’ve wanted a Magic Bullet blender since I first saw an ad for it on late night TV, but the time was never right to buy one. Either money was tight, or I couldn’t find it on sale. Found the NutriBullet on sale at Sears a couple of weeks at Sears.com, and ordered one. This is their latest innovation, which pulverizes nuts and seeds.

Had my first “green smoothie” about two days ago. It was pretty good once I got over that I was drinking something green. I used spinach, an apple, some grapes, some blueberries, and about 1/8 cup of cashews. Stuffed the spinach into the bottom of the cup (filled it halfway with the spinach), added the other fruit, then put in water until the “Max” line, per the instructions. Put the blade on the cup, put it into the base, and about 30 seconds later, I had my drink.  Tasted pretty good, although a bit bland, but then I didn’t use any sweeteners or anything to amp it up.

Today, I tried something else. Took a packet of the Weight Watchers Smoothie Mix (Creamy Coconut), and added a banana, a pear, and a bit less water than called for. It’s pretty much perfect tastewise. Very happy!

In other news, my primary care guy was as good as his word. Last Wednesday, the cardiologist called me with a referral to a surgeon. I have made an appointment to see him (next Tuesday), and will update you after that. I know I’m not a good candidate for surgery at this point, but what I want to talk to him about is the following:

  • What needs to happen to improve my chances of being a good candidate for the surgery I need (septal myectomy),
  • What are the complications and risks that accompany that surgery, so I know what to put on my Medical Power of Attorney and my Living Will in case things go pear-shaped, and
  • What the probable/possible outcomes of the surgery are.

While I am, in reality, not close to getting the surgery, the good thing is that it feels like there is real progress happening, so I am in a much less hopeless frame of mind.  Even better, should this surgeon not work out for whatever reason, a friend of mine who is an RN has found me two other names to check, one of whom even takes my insurance. She also suggested that I might want to check out AARP re dental insurance, and that way I could possibly have my old dentist, who I adore, back. I just did that, and I now will have real dental insurance as of February 1st, at a price I can sort of afford. I also have a dental appointment for February 5th. So there’s some real progress to point at!

I have made peace with the decision about the toxic family member. As I noted, it was a horrible decision to have to make, but I feel so much better for having made it. I’m feeling a lot more hopeful than I was a month ago; at least I am today. I have to admit, this whole thing has been something of an emotional rollercoaster, which is what has been the hardest thing to deal with. I can deal with not being able to go out a lot, even though there are days when I feel trapped in the house. My friends have taken steps to make sure I get out a little each week, so that’s helpful in fighting that feeing off.

Anyway the upshot is that I’m still hanging in, still in fighting to get things right mode, and fairly happy at the moment.


So.

NYC, including Brooklyn, is caught in this Polar Vortex that the weather forecasters are talking about. What this means in real life is that we are in one of the worst cold snaps in a while. For folks like me, with heart issues, this means we should stay inside as much as humanly possible, lest we add stress to our already compromised systems. F), or once, I am actually taking their cautions seriously.  Being 61, and wanting to make it to at least 62, I figure caution and treating myself kindly are pretty important right now.

I did go out – briefly – on Monday. Had an appointment with my internist.  While I won’t mention names online, if any of you in Brooklyn are looking for a great practice (two really great doctors, and a third one who is more than competent, but a bit on the arrogant side), catch me privately and I will give you the info. And believe, me I don’t say “great” for nothing; my doctor has saved my life twice, my ex’s life once, and my roommate’s life once.

Anyway, I discussed the situation with my internist, and he agrees with me that a pacemaker would be totally uncalled for in this case. He also let me know that he plans to speak to my cardiologist and make sure that I get a referral to a surgeon, so I can at least discuss what I would need to do (besides the obvious losing weight) to become a viable candidate for the surgery that I need to repair the heart defect. Since my main issue was that I was being rejected by these surgeons without their even meeting me to discuss the situation, the risks, the possible complications, the possible outcomes, etc., this feels like an important step to me.

I have also been dealing with grieving over having to cut a very toxic family member out of my life. This process has been made a lot more tolerable by all the friends, both online and in RL, who have shown themselves willing to step up and fill various parts of that person’s shoes. I have three good friends who are willing to be my medical executors.

And I really got humbled by my friends. Monday, my RL friend C offered to be a designated blood donor for me. We are different blood types, so that won’t work, but instead, she offered to donate a pint in my name, which is superb, because her blood type is one of the rare ones they *always* need. I mentioned this on Facebook, and the next thing I knew, I had a list of ten people, some of which only know me from a Facebook game or two, who were willing to either be a designated donor or donate a pint in my name.

I also just got a phone call from my oldest friend, MK. We met back in sophomore year of high school, and – while our lives have diverged, we manage to find each other again and again. She is a nurse, and did some research last night (she said she couldn’t sleep, so she figured it might be useful) and has found two doctors who specialize in the specific kind of surgery I need. She also found out that I really need to have this done by a specialist, which may be rough to do given that I am on Medicaid. I will see who my internist recommends that I see – perhaps it will be one of these doctors. If not, I will see whoever he recommends first, then call these two doctors. One of them works out of New York Presbyterian. The other works out of St. Lukes. I can live with either of those.

Another thing MK told me to check, which I will, is whether or not my insurance will be accepted if I have to go out of state. This is something that, always having had private insurance before, I never would have even had to ask. Once again, I am humbled that the people who have the knowledge I need are so willing to provide it. She also spent an hour on the phone with me last night, explaining some of the things I will need to discuss with the surgeons when I do see them. These are things that, as a layperson, I would not necessarily thought of on my own, so I am doubly glad for her help.

And other friends have stepped up from all over the place to talk to me at night when things get hairy, to call me during the day to remind me I matter to them, and generally to help however they are able to.

Further, I am grateful today to God who gave me the most useful power of all for this kind of thing: While I damned sure don’t have the answers to much of this stuff, I seem to be able to find the people who can help me get them. This is something I’ve always been able to do, and it has kept my head above water more times than I can think of.

And, just to remind me to lighten up: the roomie just walked in with a big box that the mailman brought. It’s a box of yarn from a dear friend who is an author, including some very beautiful, soft yarn that will eventually be a scarf for me. It’s hard to forget the good things in the world when people are so going out of their way to make sure I remember them.

Anyway, I have some work to do today, so I should get to it.

No matter how I know you, please accept my thanks for bolstering me up through this journey.


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