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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why I Did It. Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy

 I am not weak. I am not a glutton.  I am not lazy. I do not lack self-control, and I most certainly do not take the easy way out!  However, I have been overweight for the past 10 years; so last summer I decided I wanted to investigate weight loss surgery.  After a year's worth of investigation and preparation, last week I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy known as a vertical sleeve or just a sleeve.

This earlier blog post explains the surgery:

Initially, I thought I wanted to look into lap band surgery.  I fight the hunger battle constantly.  A lap band, I thought would restrict the "hunger monster" that chases me everywhere.  Upon further investigation, I found out that lap bands are no longer recommended by my bariatric surgeons.  There are too many problems with them including band slipping, scaring, dumping syndrome, among other complications.

At only five feet tall, every extra pound on me shows, but it isn't just my appearance that concerns me, it is my overall health.  Because the pounds have been creeping up recently, I now have high blood pressure.  Very high.  I would prefer not to have a cardiac incident down the road.  I have a family history of high blood pressure, and my father had open bypass surgery over ten years ago.  I was walking down the same yellow brick road.

I have tried and failed at every diet.  Why?  Not because I am lazy and lack self control, but because eventually that hunger monster wins.  Over the past two years I tried Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, HCG shots, Wheat Belly, and Atkins.  I would lose maybe five pounds over two months and give up upon capture by the hunger monster.

And yes, I exercise.  I have always been a walker.  Last year I faithfully followed the Couch to 5K program for six months, and recently I fell in love with Jazzercise.  I didn't lose a pound following diet plans and exercising.  Why?

Because I have a condition called Reactive Hypoglycemia.  When I eat carbohydrates, my body converts them into sugar and then into fat.  My blood sugar jumps if I eat say, a piece of bread, and then  immediately drops into the low category.  I have battled hypoglycemia for my entire life, but I always thought it was related to not consuming enough food at times.  I even tried to follow the eat a few small meals per day rule.  In doing that, I was really creating more fat.  Grrrr!

I don't eat fast food.  I can not even tell you the last time I set foot in a Burger King or McDonalds.  Honestly!  At worst, over the past 10 years, I have occasionally eaten an Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich or a Runza chicken sandwich while still counting my Weight Watchers points.  At home, I tend to have healthy meals.  I just needed to eat too much to not feel hungry be it real or emotional.

Heavy people are discriminated against and often ignored.  Perhaps this is just my perception, I noticed as I gained weight, my professional status declined.  I wasn't being asked to head up committees and attend conferences as I had in the past.   My students still appreciated me, but too many people think fat people are lazy, and not capable of performing at a high level professionally.  Combine that with getting older, and forget it.  It is easier to stay under the radar.

There is no doubt that bariatric surgery has many health benefits.  According to a study, paraphrased in Metro Health, Link Here following bariatric surgery, 70 percent of patients are able to resolve their high blood pressure issues and discontinue their medication.

Six months after weight loss surgery, 91 percent of patients are able to discontinue high cholesterol drugs.

More than 90 percent of Type II diabetics improve their blood sugars significantly, into the normal range, in the first month after surgery and are able to discontinue medications.

Because of the resolution of other health issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it is believed that heart health also improves significantly.  More studies need to be completed over a longer term before this is definitive.

Asthma patients find they have reduced emergency symptoms.

GERD symptoms are reduced significantly within a few days after surgery.

Arthritic conditions that prevent weight bearing exercise often improve significantly.  For every pound of weight loss, the knees have four pounds less pressure.

Weight loss surgery also improves fertility in women who are in their child bearing years.  In fact my doctors told us that women tend to be more fertile after weight loss, but they recommend avoiding pregnancy for a year after surgery as weight loss stops at that point.

Frankly, my obvious weight gain was embarrassing to me.  I recognize all of the misperceptions floating around about fat people, because I once held them myself. I have avoided pictures for years.  While even famous people are posting selfies, you don't see many on my Facebook page.

 Being heavy is tiring.  I am tired of being hungry, of people watching every bite that I put into my mouth, and of strangers checking my grocery cart as they walk by.  I am sick of fighting my weight, and others misperceptions.  I don't want to continue to fight it for the rest of my life, so I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy and only one week post-op, I am happy I did it.

Soon I will begin posting before and after pictures.  I did take a before picture, but I want to wait to post until I have an after to show.

Do what's best for you, but this was the best for me!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Big News: Surgery Soon!

I am preparing to have my sleeve surgery soon! In only a matter of days I will have my hiatal hernia repaired and my stomach sleeved.  I started my pre-surgery all liquid diet last week.  I will post my weight loss total prior to my surgery.  I am trying to weigh in only twice per week, rather than every day.  I can tell you my first weigh in was very satisfactory for someone who holds on to every pound like it is the last one on Earth.

I will admit that I am a bit nervous.  Last week I had my mandatory doctor visits, when they tell you the  worst case scenario information.  I am glad that I have a friend who is a surgical nurse who was able to talk me off the ledge.

I had to have several procedures to get ready for this surgery.  In early June, I had an upper endoscopy to check the size of my hernia.  Huge is the answer.

During the Endoscopy they placed a probe in my esophagus that measured my stomach acid over a 48 hour period.  I had to carry around a monitoring device with buttons I had to push every time I felt acid,  coughed, or felt chest tightness.  I was glad to return it at the end.

I also had a test called and Esophageal Manometry Test.  During the procedure I had to drink salty thick water as I swallowed a tube down my nose.  I was motivated by the nurses promise that her fastest test time was seven minutes.  I wanted that thing out of  me as soon as possible, so I tried really hard to be an ideal patient.  I am not sure how long it lasted, but it wasn't really that bad.

I also had to attend a pre-op class with the floor nurse and the nutritionist describing every detail of the surgery as well as the food I can and can not eat for the rest of my life.  It was there, they taught me the details of the liquid pre-op diet.

As of today, I am keeping a pretty strict schedule on my liquid diet.
AM:  1 Cinnamon Roll Shake
AM Snack:  Two Homemade sugar-free popsicles
Lunch:  One chocolate shake
PM Snack:  Two more sugar- free popsicles
One more Cinnamon roll shake
Dinner:  Chocolate Shake
Two cups of chicken broth
Dessert:  Sugar-free jello

The purpose of the diet is to shrink my liver so the doctor will have easier access to my stomach.

My prescribed by the doctor goal is to have 60-100 grams of protein per day and 64 oz of liquid.  The popsicles and Jello count in my liquid.  Crystal Light is a life-saver!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Avoiding Summer Vacation Bordem. How to keep your high schoolers academically engaged over summer break.

I know you may be trembling at the thought of having your kids home supervised or unsupervised for the next eight to ten weeks.  Summer break is peaking over the horizon, it is a black cloud of impending doom.  (And you thought those were just thunderstorms.)   However, I promise,  there are ways to keep your high schoolers academically engaged without driving yourself crazy and without spending a lot of money. 

 When you hear the famous:" Mom, I'mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm bored"! whine, rather than pulling out a bottle of real wine, with a bit of planning ahead, there are several solutions.

1.  Many kids claim that they hate reading.  That simply means they haven't found what they like to read yet.  How about having a family book club where you choose a book and read it along with your kids.  It will give you lots of dinner table discussion topics and encourage them to keep reading.  You still eat together, right? Pick the latest popular Young Adult thriller, vampire romance, zombie apocalypse tale or whatever interests your teen.  Don't force them to read something that they will hate.  My son took on the Game of Thrones books last summer.  He said they were the hardest books that he has ever read, but he couldn't put them down.  My husband and son had a great time talking through the story lines.

2.  Run the closed captioning on your TV no matter how much they complain about it.  Your teens will subconsciously read the captions as they watch.  This increases reading speed and fluency with barely any extra effort.

3.  Make them get some kind of physical activity.  They can swim, run, attend sports camps, walk, etc.  Give them a goal.  Have them walk enough miles on the treadmill to get to Canada and back.  Pressing controllers on the XBox does not count as exercise.

4.  Ask them to help you with the family budget.  Kids need to be aware of what they are costing you, and ask them to help re do the budget to save enough for some kind of reward.

5.  Ask them to take over meal planning for one night a week or more.  This not only teaches them how to cook, but to actually research, read, and use a recipe.   Set a budget and send them shopping.  Make it a challenge.  Have them research a genre of cooking, then find a recipe, and have them tell you more about the culture the food comes from.

7.  Help them get organized for the next school year by going through the junk they bring home on the last day of school and organize it into files.  Then teach them an organizational system for keeping their work together.  I can't tell you how many times kids have forgotten to turn in assignments that they actually completed because the work was wadded up in their backpack and they couldn't find it when I called for it.

Do you have more ideas?  Feel free to comment.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Young Adult Choices: Summer Reading

School is almost over!!!  I am really excited to spend more time reading... for fun!  My reading list will include several of the books on the International Reading Association's Young Adult Choices list.  I teach at a high school that was lucky enough to be part of this project.  Our students read and reviewed many of th books submitted by publishers. That means they made the list because our very own students gave them the thumbs up. How cool!.  Remember, YA isn't just for kids anymore, so read away!

Below is a partial list from the IRA, including their book summaries.  See their Website for the rest of their Young Adult Choices winners.

All My Friends Are Still Dead
Avery Monsen and Jory John. Chronicle.
This humorous collection of cartoons and drawings
depicts a variety of people and other life forms as
they deal with the existential aspects of their lives
(and deaths).

Matthew Quick. Little, Brown Books for Young
Finley, an introverted teen, is the only Anglo player
on his high school’s varsity basketball team. When
former basketball phenomenon Russ moves into
town after his parents’ murder, Finley is asked by
his basketball coach to befriend him. Identity,
injustice, and loss are explored through this unique

Breaking Beautiful
Jennifer Shaw Wolf. Walker Childrens.
Following the death of her boyfriend, Trip, in a car
accident, Allie is overwhelmed, left scarred, and
unable to recall what happened. Crushed by
survivor’s guilt and loss, Allie is simultaneously
relieved to be rid of the abuse Trip imposed. As the
suspicious circumstances of the accident are
uncovered, Allie must reveal difficult truths.

Marissa Meyer. Square Fish.
First in a series of four planned novels (The Lunar
Chronicles), this fresh retelling of the classic fairy
tale is set in a dystopian future and portrays the
heroine as a cyborg mechanic. This fast-paced
adventure includes a romantic prince, an evil queen,
a deadly plague, and a dysfunctional stepfamily.

City of Lost Souls
Cassandra Clare. Walker Childrens.
The fifth volume in the Mortal Instruments series,
this fantasy–adventure–romance features vampires,
werewolves, warlocks, faeries, and a teenage love
triangle. Clare and the Shadow hunters try to stop
her evil brother, Sebastian, but as he is “bound” to
her beloved Jace, how can one be killed and not the

K.M. Walton. Simon Pulse.
This powerful and empathetic picture of bullying is
told from the perspectives of abuser and abused.
Through alternating narratives, they reveal a tragic
history as victims of physical, emotional, and verbal
abuse. After becoming roommates in a psych ward,
each attempts a dramatic escape from his pain.
From Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Square Fish.
From Cracked by K.M. Walton. Simon Pulse.

Dead to You
Lisa McMann. Simon Pulse.
Ethan is abducted at 7 years old from his front lawn.
At 16, he is reunited with his parents. He has no
memory of his life before he was taken. His younger
brother Blake believes he is not his brother. Mama
says the DNA test is not necessary. Is it?

Every Day
David Levithan. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
‘A’ lives a nomadic life, switching daily from body to
body. He refuses to form emotional bonds with
others until he meets Rhiannon, who touches his
heart. When ‘A’ reveals his true identity to
Rhiannon, she struggles with his constantly
changing outward identities. Can love triumph, or is
‘A’ asking too much?

The Fault in Our Stars
John Green. Dutton Juvenile.
Hazel and Gus, who meet in a Cancer Kid Support
Group, decide to take risks as they embark on a
life-affirming trip to Amsterdam. During their
journey of mutual understanding they find
friendship, happiness, and love while facing the
injustice of terminal illnesses. Love softens and
magnifies the reality and sorrow to come.

Megan Miranda. Walker Childrens.
It’s cold—really cold—when Delaney falls through
the ice. She is under freezing water for 11 minutes
but, strangely, she awakens from a coma six days
later with no apparent brain damage. Now things
are different. Pulled toward death, Delaney tries to
find a way to understand her new life.

Getting Over Garrett Delaney
Abby McDonald. Scholastic.
Sadie has been in love with Garrett Delaney for far
too long. She finally realizes that no matter how
‘perfect’ she is for him, Garrett will never see her as
more than a friend. Sadie picks up the pieces of her
broken heart and moves on in the best possible way.

Girl Meets Boy
Kelly Milner Halls. Chronicle.
This collection of “he said/she said” stories tell of
hope and heartbreak as the problems of forming
youthful romantic relationship are explored. The
complexity and fragility of love relationships are
wonderfully constructed. Twelve of the most
dynamic and engaging contemporary YA authors are
featured in this one-of-a-kind compilation.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Planning a Stress-Free High School Graduation Party

About two weeks ago, my son decided that, yes; in fact, he does want to have a graduation party.  Keep in mind, in our area, graduation is Mid to late May.  With only two weeks to plan and host a party, I had to kick things into gear, pronto!

So, within 24 hours, I picked a venue, set a date,  ordered and printed invitations (from Walgreens; ready in a few hours), picked them up, addressed them and mailed them.  We chose to have the party a week before graduation.  There are so many parties on graduation weekend, it is difficult for everyone to get to all of them.

Next week, I can enjoy the actual graduation without running home to prep for a party.

We decided to have the party at a nice pizza restaurant in our area for several reasons:
1.  Reasonable cost.
2.  No cooking for me.
3.  Little pre-party shopping.  (Yay! I am not a fan of shopping unless it is shopping on
4.  No frantic house cleaning.
5.  Easy set up.
6.  No mess to clean after.  Well, at least for us, the restaurant employees have that privilege.

We had a great turn out, and everything went very well.  My mom helped with shopping for party supplies, for the tables and the cake.

I called and ordered the balloons the day before the party.  In fact, I worked all-day the day of the party.    I stopped and picked up the cake and balloons, and I came ran home and changed and headed over to the pizza place.

For decorations, we put blue plastic table cloths on all of the tables.  (Thank you mom for cutting them all to size!)  She cut another gold cloth into strips for an accent stripe down each table.

We bought bouquets of blue and yellow (pretend they are gold) balloons and placed them around the room.  As you can see from pictures, the balloons tangled up during the car ride over to the party.  Next time I will have them put each bunch in a separate garbage bag.  It took the kids about a half hour to untangle them.

I hung small rope on the window.  I used binder clips and put snapshots of our son from across them and hung the string on the window.

At the door to the party room we had a table with a framed senior picture, his football jersey, yearbook, a baby outfit he once wore for pictures, and a copy of the baby picture.  On the opposite door, we hung his army uniform.  Our son is in the reserves and leaves about a month after graduation for Basic Training.  We had guests sign his yearbook.  I also found a blue basket for cards.

We served pizza, salad, breadsticks, soda, and cake.  Other than a bit of lag time when the pizza ran out, everything went smoothly.  The food and drink costs were about the same as I would have spent on groceries for a party at home.

It was a fun stress free party!  I recommend this for everyone who wants to enjoy the day.  I wish I had more pictures of the actual party, but I was too busy socializing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

BPA is scary!

The article below is one of the major reasons that I am trying to change my lifestyle and rely less on store bought products.


Recently I posted on why I am making my own deodorant.  I am also thinking of ditching my Tassimo coffee maker.  The little coffee discs are plastic, and probably full of BPA.  Thanks to my friend Tania for calling the article below to my attention.  I did not even think of my coffee discs as BPA filled.

Here is my post on homemade deodorant.  No chemicals!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Another Teacher's Take on the "I Quit " Teacher Resignation Letter

Last week, Gerald Conti's resignation letter to his superintendent sparked a national debate about education reform.  It was published in The Washington Post and has gone viral on Facebook.


I am not suprised that a 40 year veteran is so frustrated with his profession.  The education system has changed greatly since I started in 1989.  Testing has gone high stakes.  Many teachers complain that they are forced to "teach to the test."  Kids are different.  Parents are different. Politicians and the public defame teachers and resent that they have to pay us. Teaching is not easy.  The work is tough, and our employers have high expectations for our performance.

I am very lucky that I teach in a high performing public school with involved parents and a smart administration.  I also teach in a state that has not yet bought into the Common Core.  We do have high stakes assessments required for graduation; however, I think the testing has made my curriculum better, not worse.

At the beginning of my career, we taught by the book.  The textbook that is.  We wrote objectives for each class but they were not consistent.  I could have one set of objectives, and the teacher next door could have a completely different set for the same course.  The education students received depended upon the random luck of where the computer placed them.  My expectations for student performance were, at times, completely different from the teacher next door.

When Six-Trait Writing was introduced, student writing was more focused on grammar and marking errors with a red pen, rather than looking at the content and style of the writing.  When we began teaching writing with the traits, the content of student writing improved dramatically.  Today, I don't have to focus on the traits exclusively when I teach writing.  Because my students started learning the traits in first grade, they know what good writing is and how to apply it to their own work.  I now can focus on coaching them on developing their ideas fully, as well as coacing them to write in a mature academic style in preparation for college.

My students are over tested.  They have the required graduation assessments for the district, and they also have state required assessments.  They know the district assessments mean something, but in truth, they also know the state assessments are only measuring school performance, not individual performance.  They do not always care about their performance. It is not a matter of pride.  There is no reward or consequence for performance on our state tests, so more often than not, they do not take them seriously.  I have heard of students putting in all C's on the multiple choice section just to finish the test quickly, so they can go back to playing Angry Birds on their cell phone.

Because of testing, we are more focused on individual instruction for students who are not performing up to the minimum standards.  Students at my school, who are not performing well on reading assessments, are placed in a program, during study hall, that focuses on improving reading skills.  Each student has individual time working with a teacher with the goal of improving fluency and comprehension.  Our program is working.  Recently one of my study hall students improved so much she is no longer below grade level, she is now above grade level.

Teaching to the test is a fallacy.  Tests should measure skills actually taught in each grade and subject area.    If that is the case, then our objectives become more consistent rather than being different for each teacher.  It helps me to know what standards I should focus upon, so that I can be sure my students are developing the skills they need to be successful.  I can't just pick any old novel to read with my students. Though,  I can pick a novel that matches district and state objectives, and thus, will improve their reading and analytical skills. Because of test security, I am not allowed to see the test questions in advance, but I can see lists of skills that the tests address. 

I am grateful that, where I work,  I have the academic freedom to create lessons that truly help my students meet the objectives for their grade level and beyond.  Critical thinking skills are still a strong part of my curruiculum.  My lessons are designed to lead students to the water, but they still have to learn how to take a drink.  If a student doesn't get it the first time, I take them back to the water, but maybe on a different path.  I still have the freedom to choose the best path. It is too bad that in some states, bureaucrats are dictating the path.  Those are the states that will lose the best teachers.