Saturday, May 24, 2014

Crescent Moon from the Crescent City

Yesterday morning, around 5:00 a.m., the garbage trucks were making SO MUCH NOISE. After they were finally fading away, I rolled over to go back to sleep and I saw the fat crescent moon out of my window. For a second, I closed my eyes and then I jumped up because I HAD to get that picture! HA! This is the result.......not too shabby :-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I am thrilled to be going to India in July to volunteer with both the Christian Hospital Mungeli and the Rambo Memorial School! They also have a Nursing School. Right now, I am still working on the VISA application, but hopefully, everything will be fine about that. I've been on mission trips before - to Izvorsko, Bulgaria (as part of the before activities of a conducting workshop) and to Haiti (with The Red Thread Promise and St. Paul's Episcopal Church working with children from St. Vincent's Episcopal School and Orphanage). I will include some of the links to my blog posts from that trip at the bottom of this post in case anyone would like to read about that trip. I will also be blogging a LOT more about India and my activities before I go and once I am there.
One thing I love about any trip abroad is that I get to learn about a unique culture and explore a community different than my own. What I love about mission trips in particular are the opportunities to give back to the world community, the seeing the positive differences and effects you can have on those who really need it (including oneself), and breaking the barriers of language or station to do something that ultimately involves God's love, ministry, faith, work, and discovery.

How did this come about? Well, my friend Rev. Landa Simmons was my very first boss at Shiloh Christian Church in Lithonia. This was my first church job as music director instead of a singer or children's choir director. She is on the board of the Rambo School and was organizing a trip to make a fun camp for the school. She invited lots of folks and I happened to me one! I am so grateful for this connection and the opportunity! Now, if approved, I will be an official Global Ministries volunteer in addition to representing St. Paul's Episcopal! The work they do is simply AMAZING! Here is a link to their work in Mungeli: 

I will fly into Delhi and take a jet to Raipur. From there, the hospital will transport me to the village of Mungeli in the district of Chhattisgarh. I think will be there for three weeks.
Here is a great video from the hospital and school!

I will be doing lot of things such as: teaching a music class, singing every day with small groups, art projects such a ZENtangle, talking about the Solar System as part of my NASA / JPL Solar System Ambassador program. I cannot wait to show them NASA's Eyes on the Solar System! I hope to help folks learn English as well. At the hospital, I hope to volunteer in any capacity needed. I just finished a CPE certificate course on Ministry to the Sick so I hope to actually be of use pastorally in some ways - even if language is a barrier, I feel that I can contribute in this ministry of presence and hopefully be of comfort to someone. It is very important to me.

I've been saving up my pennies and am being super frugal about things. I'm going in July because my UNO teaching is online this summer. I am hoping to raise a little money for housing this June.

I was very fortunate to be able to have several choral adjudication jobs this spring so I have saved every bit of that. I plan on going somewhere after my time in India and maybe even on a trek. I have some ideas as to where, but I'm not sure yet so I will save this portion for a surprise.

What We Do Here - from the Christian Hospital Mungeli
Documentary: The Story of India - a PBS series
Documentary: Welcome to India - BBC series in three parts, scroll down to see

1. Mission to Haiti
2. St. Vincent's School for the Handicapped
3. Haiti: First Impressions
4. Day Two: Preparations
5. Day Three: Campers Arrive!
6. Day Four: Ocean Swimming and More
7. Haiti: Sunday and Monday
8. Final Days of Camp Jake

So, wish me luck in India! I will add new posts once I know more about what I will be doing and more details of my trip!
Sal (shorea robusta) - the state tree of Chhattisgarh (wiki commons image)

Monday, May 12, 2014


SOOOOOOOOOOO..... it has been a WHOLE YEAR since I had VSG (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy) surgery! WOW! I really cannot believe it. I suppose I must incorporate the "word" 
SURGIVERSARY into my vocabulary now, heh :-)
I thought that I would write this post to give some updates on my weight loss, daily living / eating, and to basically share what's in my head with regards to the whole process. At the end of the post, I'll close with some links to my previous blog posts in case you might want to read some, but don't want to search for them.  I don't really have great before and after pics, but here is a collage of some. I will try to take a good current picture soon and re-post.
A collage from the past year of pictures I like. You can see some differences!
- I have lost 92 lbs - THAT is AMAZING! It's also pretty much - a person. I have had MUCH longer plateaus this spring and I have been eating some salty foods at times so I think it has slowed my loss a little. 
- My goal is to lose 100 lbs and I'm pretty darn close!
- Lighter, but the same.
- As friends put it.....they certainly didn't take out my sense of humor.
- Grateful that I had the surgery.
- I wonder what life would have been like if I had done this earlier.
- Men still don't seem to be able to take a chance - even with the smaller me. I think my sense and sense of adventure still scares them. It's depressing really, but that's another post.
- Myself
- Being able to fit better into clothes and of course SMALLER SIZES! Woohoo!
- I feel more "feminine" and pretty whereas I used to feel lumpy
- Not looking so puffed up / heavy
- Being able to enjoy food more freely in some ways....I suppose I'm not afraid to eat various things now that I previously would have avoided or berated myself for eating
- Crossing my legs with ease, scrunching up on the couch with ease
- Not feeling hunger in the same way as I used to feel it. I can easily ignore being hungry and sometimes I do not feel hunger at all
- Grazing. I am a grazer and for me personally, I can now eat on and off throughout the day without the fear as I had before
- Takeout lasts me a few meals, that's cool! $aving $ome $$$
- I like it when people smile at me. I always have liked that, but they do it more now.
- I always took the heat ok, but now, I handle it even better.
- I still assume I can eat more than I actually can and I can't sample too much of what I'm cooking or I'll fill up! Boo!
- Some evenings I eat a little too much for dinner and then have reflux, but I suppose that happens to lots of people
- Sometimes I want to gulp down a cold drink, but I can't do that. I take several tiny swallows super fast and it seems to work well enough
- Some people that I work with and even some friends treat me differently now that I am smaller. I imagine that they do not even realize that they smile at me more, talk to me or listen to me more, or actually treat me like I am "worthy" of their time or that there is a difference between now and before. This statement is in this category of what I don't like too much because I think that MANY people treat overweight people in ways that are less than nice / appropriate and often, they DON'T EVEN REALIZE IT.  In the past, I have experienced my ideas or my conversational participation being ignored because of simply being a women and/or because of being overweight. Think what you like - it was not my imagination. Ok, rant over. 
- I don't really like the fact that I still hate more than one or two flights of stairs.
- When people make assumptions. In general, I dislike this, but we all do it sometimes. People seem to automatically assume that I have more energy b/c I lost weight or that I must certainly "feel better" or even that I was unhealthy (other than the weight). I feel exactly the SAME except that the mental angst and self-loathing I carried around with me my whole life is seriously diminished and often completely gone. I've always had an extremely high level of energy and have always been very active (when I'm not intentionally being a couch potato).
- I won't call it extra skin just yet, but my shape is not too.....shapely. At least I now have a waist and the girls are still where they're supposed to be, HA!
- I was able to do this. I chose Endobariatric in Mexico for several reasons. One is the amazing Dr. Alvarez! He was also there for me afterwards for ANYTHING and ANY questions or worries that I had or still may have. People laugh at Twitter, but for me, it was a life-saver. Another reason for going to Mexico was that my health insurance did not cover the procedure. Yet another reason was that Endobariatric kept me for a couple of days whereas certain area programs here would have released me either the same day or the following morning.
- I have a support system! My dear friend Meg (who went with me) and my dear friend Chuck have been there every step of the way and numerous friends and colleagues have been supportive and excited about my efforts and my results. My choirs, my students, and my family and friends have all been so awesome! I even found out last year after I had returned from Mexico that the cathedral had put me on its prayer list as had a few folks at St. Paul's. That means the world to me! THANK YOU!!!!  I also count YOU as my support system. If you're reading this, you are interested or you CARE and I appreciate it! :-)
- I have not thrown up even once since surgery. I almost did when I was five months out and took that ONE extra bite of steak after I'd eaten enough. I didn't get sick, but I remember feeling very ill momentarily.
- I can eat anything that I want to - rice, cereals, Jones Cream soda, broccoli, nuts & seeds, etc. Nothing gives me texture or digestion issues. Sometimes, people have either something they cannot eat or a food texture issue that bothers them. I may be slightly lactose intolerant at times and sometimes I just have a day where stuff goes through me too rapidly, but that's always been the case. I feel safe in saying that most people have those days.
- I have been able to eat my favorite salad which includes: spinach, broccoli, sunflower seeds, sometimes pine nuts, with cheddar cheese and a dot of Ranch or Caesar dressing. WHEW! This is what I eat a LOT so it makes me happy that I can still enjoy it so much!
- Some people worry about replacing one "addiction" with another. Firstly, I do not feel that food was a true "addiction" of mine, but I could be wrong...maybe it was in some ways. It was certainly something that I fought with. I'd say that drastic and yo-yo DIETING was more of an addiction. Anyway, my new food eating addictions would be..................
HIBACHI, Doritos, & Starbucks mocha frappuccinos & I can justify all of them if you ask me :-)
- Getting to goal eventually
- Getting some more new clothes. I've been rather slack about it because I haven't been at the same weight long enough for to justify tooooo many new clothes.
- Mission trip to India this summer!
- Do your homework (I did) on the best type of surgery for you (meet with your doc) and research the heck out of the place to which you are entrusting your life and to whom you are paying your money
- Ask yourself if this is the last resort for you. You cannot undo a VSG and you will need to be sure this life choice is what you want. 
- Do NOT let people's wide-eyed stares or snarky comments hinder you from considering surgery (if you feel it's a viable option for you) or surgery at a place such as Endobariatric. This is your life we're talking about, not theirs.
- Have a support system whether it's a formal group of WLS / VSGers, family, or friends
- Do NOT think that VSG or any WLS is an "easy way out". It is not an easy way out. I mostly eat right, I exercise (not a ton, but I do what I can), and I take vitamins, but I will have to be careful to maintain and take care of myself. For me, my inability to lose weight was a severe problem - SINCE I WAS 11.  I decided that since I had lived 31 years of my life on diets and being too concerned about it, I was NOT going to live the rest of my days with the same thing. 
- Do not be afraid of seeking counseling as you prepare for WLS. Your particular program may or may not require it. I followed one local program and did some counseling, but in the end, was extremely put off by my five-min. meeting with the surgeon so after the nutrition classes and counseling, I started all over. 

There are lots of posts. I hope they will be helpful to someone out there!

- My Weight Loss Journey Part I - A Little Background

- WLS Journey Part II - Going for it and Insurance
- WLS Journey Part III - Types of Weight Loss Surgery

WLS Journey Part IV- Surgery Scheduled
- My Choice for VSG Surgery: Endobariatric
- A Day and a Half...
- My Journey to Endobariatric
- My VSG Journey: Discharge Day
-VSG Journey Update: Three Weeks Out from Surgery
- VSG Experimental Eating and Eating Abroad
- Staying on Track: Life 10-11 Weeks Out from VSG
- VSG 5-Month Update
- VSG - Hair Loss, Yikes!
- VSG - What Am I Eating?

Here endeth the blog post! 
Me on the right - with my UNO Choirs after our Spring 2014 concert!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

All Shall be Well

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

~ Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

(I don't know who did the icon, but I like it because Julian has a cat!) :-)

From what I understand, the cat was her sole companion for a good portion of her life.