Over it.  Over not feeling healthy. Over being overweight. I woke up one morning in early May 2019 and stepped on the scale. It was an icky number and not a surprising one. I put off weighing myself because I knew I wouldn’t like it. I was right. I didn’t like it. I was at least 60 lbs too much. I say at least because it seemed more achievable than, say 70 lbs. Even that wouldn’t get me to what I weighed in my early 20’s. I’d have to lose 80 lbs to meet that goal. To lose 70 or 80 lbs, I don’t know, seemed aggressive with an outcome I might not like in terms of being too frail, and too wrinkly. I set my sights on 60-ish lbs, give or take.

When I started on this health-kick journey I was 59 years old. I was a former runner turned walker. It felt impossible to run being so overweight. The more weight I gained over the years the less effective exercise was for me. The joints in my ankles and bones in my feet hurt. The more I hurt the less I ran until I stopped altogether.

Exercise has always helped my peace of mind. As the ability to run faded over the years I introduced morning walks. Walking in the early morning is delicious. We live close to the beach. The morning sky often fills my soul. It wasn’t a terrible alternative to running. Exercise in almost any form is good for us. It’s good for our heart, digestion, and mindset. For me, it wasn’t a dependable way to control my weight as I aged. It was what I was eating, and how much I was eating, that was the problem.

I was opposed to dieting and still am. Dieting seems like a scam. It seems like something one goes on and one goes off and on and off. One will cheat on the diet, then feel terrible about themselves. When someone meets their goal they think they are done and then go back to their same eating habits. They gain the weight back, maybe even more than when they first started the diet they were just on. Some diets have maintenance plans and that seems to be a struggle to stay on as well. I, therefore, rejected the concept of dieting but did nothing about my weight gain until 22 months ago.

My only experience with a diet plan was when I was a kid. My mother became a Weight Watcher lecturer when I was 5 years old. Sometimes I would go to meetings with her. I would sit at the back table where people checked in. Their names were on an index card with their dates and weights. People would lose a quarter of a pound or half a pound or more. People would gain weight. Before the lecture started people would be invited to share how they were feeling about their weigh-in. I can’t even say why this bugged me when I was so young but it was like I sensed their vulnerability in that moment. Like if they gained weight they seemed to feel awful. When I was a toddler I had a disfiguring eye injury that left me legally blind in one eye. The pupil is permanently enlarged. It was super noticeable to kids. Some kids were mean about it. It often felt like a shaming moment when I was made fun of by other kids. I suppose I sensed this when people at my mom’s meetings admitted their weight gain to the group. I believe it is how I came to reject the concept of a diet.

If I reject diets then how did I lose weight over the past 20 months? I changed my way of eating. I made a lifestyle change that would stick. The first thing I did was dedicate a notebook to the cause. I set my daily caloric goal at 1,200 a day if I didn’t exercise, and maybe 1,400 depending on how much exercise I do. There are plenty of free apps that will do this for you but I needed to write it down so I could understand where the hidden calories were coming from. I needed to see it on paper. I look up calories of foods on my phone. I create dinners that are flavorful while not overdoing the calories. I give myself grace twice a week with pancakes for breakfast though I do so reasonably these days in terms of caloric load. Why pancakes? Because I love them. I’ll crave them and then eat too much of them at some point if I don’t build it into my week.

I used my notebook on a daily basis for about a year. I took notes daily on the calories I consumed, how much I weighed, and what exercise I did that day. I am gluten-free so in that way, I’ve had to be a little more creative in good food choices. Gluten-free foods can be quite high in calories. I’ve essentially cut out bread most of the time for that reason. Again, being a believer in the power of grace, I sometimes indulge in a sandwich. Instead of feeling guilty, or that I cheated, I relish each bite.

Each time I lost a pound I celebrated with my second favorite food: ice cream. Sure, it may seem crazy, like I sabotaged myself. I didn’t though. I was celebrating my success. I found joy in the positive messaging I offered myself. If I couldn’t pat myself on the back then really no one could.

The weight has been slow to come off for several reasons. I chose not to starve myself. I chose to make lifestyle changes in how much I was eating and what I was eating. I am in my early 60’s now. The older we are the slower our metabolism is. I have hypothyroidism, controlled by medication. I am of the opinion that even when hypothyroidism is in control the metabolism still suffers, not like when it is out of control, but almost like it’s never what it was.

Walking became running for me once again after I lost about 20 lbs. I run five days a week and love it. I love running because I lose my mind while doing it. I forget everything else and just run. I lift light weights and do Yoga on the days I run. Yoga helps to stretch these old lady muscles I have. It also grounds me emotionally. I take two days off, not back to back, from exercise each week. I haven’t felt this healthy, this fit, ever. I have lost 55 lbs. Initially, my goal was to lose 60. I may lose that last 5 or I may not. I will continue to do what I have been doing since May of 2019 without making an extra effort. If those few more pounds come off great, if they don’t, great. Now when I weigh in a few times a week I am all in on feeling I have done my best to take care of my physical, spiritual, and mental health. The most important thing is that I feel successful in my endeavor to change my life for the good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall, 1986 – Kate was just two years old. Sean was just months from turning four. They are 19 months apart in age. I was 26 years old soon to be 27. I was pregnant in this photo. It is the only photograph we have in which we know we were pregnant with our last baby.

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Every year when October seems to suddenly be here and I see soical media posts about it being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month I consider becoming part of the conversation in my own small way by sharing my story, and then I don’t do it. I didn’t decide to write it this year in preparation for this month. It was decided for me. I was looking for some photos for a project and came across this photo of me with the kids. It feels like the right time to share.

Tom and I made the decision to have children a few years after we married. I was in my early 20’s and physically fit. I had been long distance running for a few years and felt prepared physically. As planned we got pregnant just a few months after going off birth control pills. Like so many women who are wondering if they are pregnant I took an at home pregnancy test. I was pretty excited to find out I was. Two months into the pregnancy we had a miscarriage.

For sure I thought it was my fault as I had continued to run after I knew I was pregnant. My obstetrician thought otherwise and counseled me to let go of the guilt. I’m not sure I did that so easily. I was miserable that I had a miscarriage. I had to have a procedure to stop the heavy bleeding and needed some time to heal both my body and my heart.

Over a period of 18 months, we would have 3 miscarriages. Just in case running was a problem with the first pregnancy I never ran again when I was pregnant. I can still recall with laser sharpness how people tried to offer comfort that hurt more than helped. “Don’t worry, you are young, you can keep trying” “There was probably something wrong with those babies. They were not strong enough to survive.” “At least you know you can pregnant”.  I wish I could say I let those words slide off of me but I didn’t. My feelings were raw and my fear was real that I’d never be able to carry a baby to term. Those sentiments shared with me did not help. I do know they were trying to help me feel better and meant no harm. People, me included, struggle with the right words during tragic or difficult times of loved ones.

All of these years later I’ve learned to offer others, and myself, more grace than I was able to back then. The truth of it is sometimes nothing can make you feel better. You just have to feel the things as they are and give yourself the space you need for those feelings. Some things in life are not fixable.

Our fourth pregnancy brought us our son. Nineteen months later we had our daughter. Each of their births were by cesearan section. We did not anticipate a c-section for either of their births and held out to the last minute before agreeing it was the right thing to do. We were not stubborn about it. We just wanted the best shot at a natural birth if at all possible. It took exactly one second of our babies in our arms to fall in love with them.

One would think two live babies who were now toddlers would be enough but we weren’t done yet. Tom and I wanted to have at least one more child. In the fall of 1986 I was pregnant again. After the births of our two children, we knew what we were in for and super excited. I had a ton of morning sickness with this pregnancy, the day and night kind of morning sickness one hears about. At 16 weeks we heard the babies heartbeat. We thought for sure we were going to go the distance with this pregnancy just like with our son and daughter.

When we were pregnant with our daughter I had intermittent bleeding. It was January. Tom worked full-time and was in college at night, four nights a week. We had one car and lived in an apartment. The apartment’s heaters were under the windows. They would make the windows moist and freeze over. It was either too hot or too cold in the apartment. When the bleeding started I was put on bedrest. Our son was just 11 months old. How does bedrest work in a situation like that? It doesn’t. The boy and I stayed home all day, all night, every day until the weekends. With frozen windows it was like we lived in an iglo. On the weekends’ Tom did everything to get us ready for the next week – laundry, food shopping, taking our son to the park, he did all the things except his homework. He never had a minute to breath on weekends. On week days he left at 7:45 a.m. and walked in the door at 11 p.m. If anyone could handle all of everything it was Tom. Amazingly, our little cherub survived the crazy life we had and came into the world at a healthy weight of 8 pounds 9 ounces and 22 inches.

Our last baby offered no clues as to any distress. I felt quite pregnant with all of the hallmarks of feeling naseous and my waist beginning to expand and then I didn’t. One day pregnant, the next day not. It was just like that.  Tom and I went to the doctor and the baby no longer had a heartbeat. There was nothing to do but wait until my body released the baby. It would be a week before that happened.

Christmas Day, 1986, that’s the day my body chose to let our baby go. It was the most difficult one of all of the babies. So much bleeding, so much heartache. I spent the night in the hospital after the procedure. They let me convalese on a surgical/medical floor instead of the maternity floor. I picked up a virus while in the hospital and came home terribly sick. I don’t care what anyone says my broken heart left my body vulnerable to illness. It took me weeks to feel healthy again.

Tom made a decision to have a vasectomy. Every time we were pregnant I had surgery of some kind, so six surgeries and two toddlers who needed a momma to take care of them brought Tom to that decision. He was unmoved by my resistance to his decision. I knew he was right but hated that he was. I grieved that decision pretty hard for a long time.

Every baby of ours that died I grieved. Even though I barely knew them I grieved hard for them. I told myself a story about each of them. I gave them names and genders: Margaret, Siobhan, Oliver, and Megan. They may have came into my life briefly but they left indelible love in my heart, for always. All of these babies and the two who lived to be bright shining stars, Sean and Kate, deepened my life more than I could possibly have imagined.

To all of the moms whose babies have died I hear you. I see you.

 

 

July 9, 2020 dinner written and published on October 20, 2020. This late writing and posting of something that happened three months ago are emblematic of my caregiver’s life. The days fill up with tasks almost before my feet hit the ground getting out of bed every day.

I love this recipe: Seared Scallops with Garlic Basil Butter. It’s my favorite. I’ve made it once a week since July.

From the recipe:

12 large sea scallops, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds – I use large scallops and cut them up into fours

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, optional, see notes – I leave out the flour

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons oil, such as olive oil, avocado oil or grape seed oil

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, minced – I use garlic that comes in a jar already minced. Sometimes I add it sometimes I do not.

1 cup fresh basil leaves

3 to 4 lemon slices – Almost never is there a fresh lemon in my house. I use lemon juice and use it liberally in this recipe. It makes for a more fluid to mix the sides in with the scallops.

The side dishes were gluten-free penne pasta and asparagus cooked with a splash of olive oil and minced garlic.

When the scallops are cooked I add the side dishes into the pan and mix it all up. I’ve cut down the pasta so we split one portion size. Pasta is in the “okay” category for a diabetic if one doesn’t consume too much of it. Tom checks his fasting blood sugar every morning. We’ve seen a direct correlation to too much pasta with high fasting glucose.

I go overboard a bit on the vegetables. Asparagus is great but any vegetable works. Vegetables are a wonderful complex carbohydrate that helps slow down our digestion which helps diabetics control their sugars better.

Overall, this meal was five stars for us and continues to be.

 

 

July 10 &11, 2020 are the dates we made the last two meals of the 30 Day COVID-19 Cooking Challenge. It has taken six weeks and a few days to find time to write these last two up. They are combined into one blog piece because there is a great likelihood that it could take another six weeks to write the last day of the challenge. Caregiving challenges are consuming.

For day 29 Kate made a whole chicken. It was offered as a special deal for Butcher Box members. She took advantage of it because Butcher Box did not have chicken breasts available for a while. During the spring of COVID-19 some meats were not always available; not like we are used to.

A whole chicken is not something we cook with regularity though if you remember for our fortieth anniversary Tom, with Kate’s help, made a whole chicken for us. He has always enjoyed the experience of cooking a whole chicken, having it for dinner, and then the leftovers. Me, not so much. Too much messy kind of work for not a lot of quantity. He usually says things like “you could make soup with the bones” insert me fainting. When a whole chicken comes into the house it is already cooked by a supermarket as in a rotisserie chicken. They are moist, the meat falls off the bone, it’s tasty with little effort.

Kudos to Kate on the orange blossom whole chicken. It was outstanding. She made a side of summer veggies and rice. Always with the rice, right? As carbs go it’s one of the better ones for a diabetic. At this point in the summer, Tom’s fasting glucose was continuing to climb. It was, and is, worrisome so a side of brown rice it was and continues to be most nights.

For the last meal of the challenge, I made turkey tacos with lettuce as the wrap instead of a fajita. I used a gluten-free taco mix. We had some shredded cheese, light sour cream, ground turkey, salsa, and, yes, some brown rice. It was a relaxed meal. It was a good way to wrap up the challenge.

The 30-day challenge was fun. It gave Kate and me a way to change up dinners. It took us out of our routine in an interesting way. We always had to keep in mind that the food had to work well for a diabetic and be gluten-free for me. Also, it was amazing for me to have someone take on the role of cook every other night. Cooking and clean-up are typically all on me. In fact, most everything is all on me as a caregiver to a person with ALS who also has diabetes. Most recently, we have added insulin shots to the daily routine. As I have shared throughout the cooking challenge diabetes with a side of ALS is a problem that is not going away. The pancreas is simply not able to keep up with the demands, therefore, insulin has been added to address rising glucose levels.

The pandemic is far from over. Kate is back home teaching her third graders virtually but doing so from her classroom. Why from her classroom? She has resources there she does not have at home including her colleagues. As much as we miss her Tom and I are focused on some projects that are impossible to do when there is a guest in the house. We get through this ALS life with projects because a project always gives you something to look forward to. Each day it gives you a tomorrow.