The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

I cannot believe Christmas is here and that the New Year is right around the corner!  This year, WOW!  Words just cannot describe what this year has meant to me.  Well, actually, I am a writer so I know that words can most definitely describe it.  So they shall, right here.

As many of you read and probably remember from my previous posts, each year I choose a different word as the guide for myself, my focus (inspired by the book One Word– check it out).  In 2016, my word was IMMERSE.  Guys, I did just that!  All year long.

Monday night our brood all went driving to look at Christmas lights.  I was telling my husband I was so sad to see 2016 go -that 2016 was the best year of my life.  He summed it all up perfectly when he said, “Because this year, you finally became you.”  Powerful, right?  And he is so spot on!!  I am finally me!

I immersed myself into my blog and tried to be brave about it.  Tried to be honest about the pains and humble about the satisfactions.  I immersed myself (completely) into the writing, publication and promotion of my book.  Yes, my book.  I am a writer.  Now I live it and don’t just dream it.  I immersed myself into college (FULL TIME) when I went back to school after 20+ years.  I got tired – so damn tired- of telling myself all the things I wish I had done.  I decided to do them.  Lets face it, if I hadn’t, I would be here, a whole year later STILL wishing.  I decided that wishing is for the fainthearted.  I want to be doing!  Immersing!

2016 found me traveling loads.  I went somewhere almost every month – with the exception of when I couldn’t travel because I had a tummy tuck and lipo ( I call that immersing in vanity and you know what, I am okay with that every once in a while)!

January– Disney, Universal, Legoland with our littles- Magical time for sure.

February– Vegas- never been and it was so amazing

March– Hatteras- where I know I will end up someday

April– South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa on a BOOK TOUR- how sweet is that?

May– Fort Lauderdale to pre-celebrate an amazing friend marrying her amazing guy

          Cabo- with great friends for great memories

          Wilmington to bond with my mom and sisters

June–  Book Tour in PA and MD

July– Tummy tuck time and a brief cameo at a wedding in PA.

August– girlie still down  until college started on the 29th!

September– the Poconos

October– Our Halloween Party

November– back to Cabo with our friends for a Tournament

December– VA for book event and our Christmas party- Oh- and the end of the semester when I was told I made the DEAN’s LIST!

I am in no way bragging, I am just trying to show you all that I was immersed in my life wholeheartedly.  I believe in this, you guys.  I want every person reading this to live.  Really live!  This is not our practice life.  We only have one shot at this.  Why not spend the time we have living colorful, creative, fun and AUTHENTIC lives!?  Please try it.  The world really will be a brighter place when we are all being our colorful selves!

I joked with my sister today that I wanted my word for 2017 to be DITTO so I could just repeat 2016.  I know, I know, that would be kind of cheating.  So I am thinking about my word and will post it shortly.  You all think of yours and let me know what you come up with.  Let 2017 be the year you let the whole world know you are here!

XOXO

Exit 3…to me

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Well, I promised “Reveal Photos” and I wanted to be sure to deliver!  (be sure to check out the before from the previous post- Exit 1- to see the transformation)

It has been 2 months exactly since my surgery.  I have no regrets and I am so happy with my results.  I still have a lot of swelling and soreness.  I just had a talk with my doc and he said I can expect that for about another 4 months.

To some reading that, it may seem like too much.  And that is a personal decision for each person to make.  I can tell you that it is a price I am willing to pay.  It is a necessary to have the results I have been craving for years now.

Exit 3 really is the ramp to myself.  The journey is long and the road is sometimes winding, but the destination is like coming home.

XOXO

 

Exit 2

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On July 1 at 9:30, my husband and I arrived at the hospital to begin the journey of transformation.  I can say with complete honesty that I was not scared.  I WANTED this.  To my core, I knew this was what I wanted.  I was having a touch of anxiety over the IV placement as that is usually difficult but that went well that day.

We met funny nurses, serious nurses, in the middle nurses.  All were kind and sweet and some were favored over others (as I believe is always the case).  The doctor came in to discuss how I was feeling and to write all over me with his purple Sharpee.  He was an artist and I was his canvas.  My anticipation level was high.

The  last one to come in was the anesthesiologist.  He lacked personality and bedside manner but to lets be honest, I just wanted him to drug me up and keep me out of pain.  I didn’t need to make a best friend over the transaction.  I did tell him that I had trouble with going under.  In more recent surgeries, I had problems with low blood pressure and being woken from anesthesia.  He slightly nodded as people with his personality do.  You wonder if they heard you or if they cared to make a note.  I know from later conversations that he did, in fact, make a note of it in my file. It didn’t help in the end, though.

Fast forward through the surgery.  It was to have lasted 3 hours.  It lasted about 4.  The doc came out to my husband to tell me he was very happy with how successful he was in terms of the lipo, tummy tuck and the muscle repair.  Once I was stable in the recovery room, my husband could go back to see me.  Hour after hour passed.  I was not only having trouble coming out of surgery, I was having the worst time I have ever had coming out of it.  My bp was so low, there was great concern.  I kept receiving more and more fluids which weren’t really helping matters.  Finally after 5 hours, they let my husband come back.  I kept waking momentarily and asking for him.  I knew they were going to send for him when I heard one of the docs say, “Let the husband come back, it can’t make it worse.”  I remember thinking, “Oh shit” but just as I thought it, I slipped back to sleep.

My husband tells me that when he saw me, he cried.  He said I looked seriously ill.  He could also pick up on the concern of all the nurses and docs.  It was a stressful situation for him and for that, I am sorry.  He did tell me that I now looked like Dolly Parton since I had my operation.  With my waist gone, it accentuated other parts of me.  Ha Ha!

When I finally began coming too for the duration, I realized the issue at hand with the staff was my fluid.  They had given me 5 bags of fluids to help with the crashing bp and then were not able to “find” it.  It wasn’t coming out in the catheter. I was swollen everywhere like a Goodyear blimp.  They gave me Lasik to flush my kidneys but that did nothing.

Of course at this time I began telling them I was having a hard time breathing.  I didn’t feel as though I was getting enough Oxygen when I was breathing in.  They checked my Oxygen to find my levels were very low.  They were then concerned that the missing fluid was in my lungs so they ordered an emergency chest x-ray to verify all was okay there.  It was.  Thank God.

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I stayed for a couple more hours in the recovery room until they could brief the floor upstairs what was happening.  I was eventually moved upstairs to nurses who despite my being assured they were aware of everything, certainly didn’t act like they knew what was happening.  They were nice women but it was as though I had entered a new world.  Downstairs I was treated with kit gloves and gently.  Upstairs they were pushing me from one side to another, sitting me up, moving me all around roughly.  It was a tough transition.

Later the next am, I was still struggling with low Oxygen levels and trouble breathing.  it was late morning when I felt severe tightness in my chest.  So much so, I called for the nurse and told her something was wrong.  She told me I should get an ekg to make sure I wasn’t in cardiac arrest.  She wheeled in the machine and all looked okay.  I was ready after all this to go home.  But of course, I had to wait until my Oxygen level was okay before I could be released.  This would take all day.  ALL DAY.  Finally in the last moments (after a certain point, you have to stay another night), my level was “fair enough” to go home.  WOOHOO!  I was so glad.

Handsome hubby took me home and the trip was uneventful.  I was sore but so doped up that I don’t remember much.  Truth be told, I was so doped up for the first 4-5 days that I remember only bits and pieces.  I do remember when I came into the house, our plan was for me to head right upstairs from the foyer into our room.  My hubby just wanted to get me settled into our room and then let the children come to see me.  So in we went and according to plan, up the steps we went.  What I had not taken into account was my shortness of breath and struggles with breathing.  By the time I reached the top of the staircase, my chest was burning and I was gasping.  Then I had to continue on into our room.  Oh my gosh.  It took a good half hour to calm my lungs down.

After this, I was pretty much just laying low in our bedroom watching Real Housewives of Jersey (marathon) with my husband and feeling pretty darn sore.

One day I got my first and hopefully only migraine.  I guess it was from all the medication and trauma.  Needless to say, I had my husband cover the windows with blankets and then I was sporting the below (see picture)…I wet wash cloth, an ice pack both on my head while wearing his sunglasses.  Funny story about this picture is that it was taken in the part of our bathroom that has no windows.  The light was off and the door was closed and I STILL wanted sunglasses.  🙂  To which my adorable hubby asked, “I know this isn’t funny now but can I take a picture because I know we are going to think its funny very soon.”.  Of course I said yes.  Even in pain I am always down for a good laugh.  🙂  And look, he was right.  Here we are laughing about it!  Smart guy!

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I know I made it sound like Exit 2 was a nightmare.  It definitely had its issues.  And I have to say, the real work rested on my husband and Studious.  They took such good care of me and the Final Three (when grandmothers didn’t have them).  I am blessed.

And though it was a hard road, I have no regrets.  I am so pleased with the outcome.  Exit 2 led me to Exit 3 and I am so happy for it!

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XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Path- Exit 1

Lately, I have been seeing my life as a huge super highway with many turns, exits and paths.  Each a different component of me and my life.  Some are straight and concise.  You know these roads too, I am sure.  Those things we don’t have to think too hard on.  Those aspects that just sort of go along at their own pace and that pace is perfect for us. These roads for me are my marriage, my husband and my kiddos.  I know the direction I am going in my life where they are concerned and I am happy for it all.  Other roads are bumpy and have their share of hills.  I think these roads keep us on our feet and force us off of autopilot so we can actually live.  These roads are my creativity.  While the work itself is always on that aforementioned road, the work following is sometimes difficult for me.  The attention of tours, events, promotions.  I still haven’t become totally confident in those situations.  Probably, in part, to the last group of roads…  And THAT road friends and followers, are those  that were under construction many moons ago but seem to have been forgotten. Roads with so many potholes and accidents waiting to happen we are scared to even look at the exit markers.  Trouble is, when we neglect these roads, the ones that need the most work and attention…they don’t go away.  They get worse.  And eventually, we have to take a ride and decide what we are going to do.  How we are going to repair that which has been damaged for so long?

And so, I am going to share with you my trip on the reckless road.  I do this with an anxious heart I must confess because I am feeling cracked open writing this series (I will break this up into three posts).  I hope you all will receive it with the sincerity and compassion with which I am writing it.

path

Exit 1.  It was a cold place for sure.  No warmth there.  Bitter some would say.  It was where I encountered and stored my horrific self esteem.  I have addressed this in the past on this blog.  I must tell you it is a very real thing that I did not believe or understand until I experienced it.

I have 4 children.  My body reflected as much.  Truth be told, my body reflected that I had delivered 4 grown lineman from an NFL team.  There was so much extra weight.  With each pregnancy, more weight compiled onto more weight.  I did fad diets, I did healthy diets, I worked out, I ate out- I did it all.  It seemed I was a hamster on that proverbial wheel going nowhere.  But unlike the hamster, I wasn’t in ignorant bliss doing so.  I was slowly developing a crippling relationship with myself.  One that was going to be debilitating if I kept on that wheel.

It started off small.  Those conversations with myself that I would have (I know we all do it- or I am the only one and I am crazy so you can just click out of this post now).  I would get out of the shower and I would say little things to myself.

“Gosh, you got to do something about this weight”

“Hmm, I think you look bigger than last month”

“Ugh, junk in the trunk”

These were light comments I made to myself.  And once I was dried, dressed and out the door, the thoughts were gone as well.  Until my next shower.  But that was doable, right?  Because most of our day is not in the shower.  I could manage.

But the weight kept coming.  And the conversations?  They grew more harsh.

“Surely your husband sees what a mess you are”

“You look so gross”

“What happened to you”

And these conversations lasted longer. Not just in the bathroom, but maybe all morning until my day was in full swing.

And fast forward to most recently, when these self pep talks were really turning into self verbal assaults.  And I don’t need to type here what I was telling myself, let it just be known I was not showing myself kindness.  And dear ones, if you are unable to be kind to yourself, it is IMPOSSIBLE to be kind to others.  So this should tell you how bad a path I had come upon.

These conversations were now happening throughout the day.  Most of the day, all days.

And so I decided I was taking back this head of mine.  These thoughts were over and this path?  It was getting an overhaul.  So was I, as it turned out.  I just wasn’t aware of it yet.

I went to consult with a plastic surgeon about my stomach.  Having the last 3 ten pound babies a year apart from each other on top of the hysterectomy had left my stomach a mess.  SO much extra skin and excess everything.  I wanted to consult a professional and get their feedback and input.  My doctor examined me.  True story, I had tears welling up when I was standing in front of him and his nurses.  It was such a vulnerable moment.  I was ashamed, frustrated, just open.

My doctor assured me he would be able to make things right. He said that no matter what I did on my own, the skin was never going to go away,  I had gone to the right place.  He was going to help me.

I cried to my husband.  I couldn’t believe that the thing that had caused me such angst and misery was able to be fixed.  I couldn’t believe my husband was so supportive.  It was a huge thing to ask for and he never hesitated.  I can’t ever thank him enough.

My doctor told me I had severe diastasis recti and that he would be able to repair it when he performed a full tummy tuck and liposuction.  I was finally going to get the successful nudge I needed to make this exit on my life highway a scenic view and not a dreaded eyesore.

I know this route is not one everyone can do or may even agree with.  I  can say I knew this was right the moment I began speaking with the doctor.

I had already investigated and interviewed several doctors.   The one I chose was the Chief of Plastic Surgery and also taught at Johns Hopkins.  I recommend that if any of you out there decide to go this direction, you do the same- meet and interview docs.

It was also important for me that my plastic surgeon performed the surgery in a hospital and not a surgical “suite”.  This is a personal preference and one that proved to be smart later on.

So, it was settled.  I was going through with plastic surgery.  My surgery was scheduled for 07/01.  The first day of the month.  The first day to me.  I was so excited!

Tune in to the next installment of this amazing journey.

But first- my before photo…

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(notice the excess skin and the fact that the weakened stomach muscles push out skin even further…)- also note the black bikini was purchased for photos.

On the Path- Exit 1

Lately, I have been seeing my life as a huge super highway with many turns, exits and paths.  Each a different component of me and my life.  Some are straight and concise.  You know these roads too, I am sure.  Those things we don’t have to think too hard on.  Those aspects that just sort of go along at their own pace and that pace is perfect for us. These roads for me are my marriage, my husband and my kiddos.  I know the direction I am going in my life where they are concerned and I am happy for it all.  Other roads are bumpy and have their share of hills.  I think these roads keep us on our feet and force us off of autopilot so we can actually live.  These roads are my creativity.  While the work itself is always on that aforementioned road, the work following is sometimes difficult for me.  The attention of tours, events, promotions.  I still haven’t become totally confident in those situations.  Probably, in part, to the last group of roads…  And THAT road friends and followers, are those  that were under construction many moons ago but seem to have been forgotten. Roads with so many potholes and accidents waiting to happen we are scared to even look at the exit markers.  Trouble is, when we neglect these roads, the ones that need the most work and attention…they don’t go away.  They get worse.  And eventually, we have to take a ride and decide what we are going to do.  How we are going to repair that which has been damaged for so long?

And so, I am going to share with you my trip on the reckless road.  I do this with an anxious heart I must confess because I am feeling cracked open writing this series (I will break this up into three posts).  I hope you all will receive it with the sincerity and compassion with which I am writing it.

path

Exit 1.  It was a cold place for sure.  No warmth there.  Bitter some would say.  It was where I encountered and stored my horrific self esteem.  I have addressed this in the past on this blog.  I must tell you it is a very real thing that I did not believe or understand until I experienced it.

I have 4 children.  My body reflected as much.  Truth be told, my body reflected that I had delivered 4 grown lineman from an NFL team.  There was so much extra weight.  With each pregnancy, more weight compiled onto more weight.  I did fad diets, I did healthy diets, I worked out, I ate out- I did it all.  It seemed I was a hamster on that proverbial wheel going nowhere.  But unlike the hamster, I wasn’t in ignorant bliss doing so.  I was slowly developing a crippling relationship with myself.  One that was going to be debilitating if I kept on that wheel.

It started off small.  Those conversations with myself that I would have (I know we all do it- or I am the only one and I am crazy so you can just click out of this post now).  I would get out of the shower and I would say little things to myself.

“Gosh, you got to do something about this weight”

“Hmm, I think you look bigger than last month”

“Ugh, junk in the trunk”

These were light comments I made to myself.  And once I was dried, dressed and out the door, the thoughts were gone as well.  Until my next shower.  But that was doable, right?  Because most of our day is not in the shower.  I could manage.

But the weight kept coming.  And the conversations?  They grew more harsh.

“Surely your husband sees what a mess you are”

“You look so gross”

“What happened to you”

And these conversations lasted longer. Not just in the bathroom, but maybe all morning until my day was in full swing.

And fast forward to most recently, when these self pep talks were really turning into self verbal assaults.  And I don’t need to type here what I was telling myself, let it just be known I was not showing myself kindness.  And dear ones, if you are unable to be kind to yourself, it is IMPOSSIBLE to be kind to others.  So this should tell you how bad a path I had come upon.

These conversations were now happening throughout the day.  Most of the day, all days.

And so I decided I was taking back this head of mine.  These thoughts were over and this path?  It was getting an overhaul.  So was I, as it turned out.  I just wasn’t aware of it yet.

I went to consult with a plastic surgeon about my stomach.  Having the last 3 ten pound babies a year apart from each other on top of the hysterectomy had left my stomach a mess.  SO much extra skin and excess everything.  I wanted to consult a professional and get their feedback and input.  My doctor examined me.  True story, I had tears welling up when I was standing in front of him and his nurses.  It was such a vulnerable moment.  I was ashamed, frustrated, just open.

My doctor assured me he would be able to make things right. He said that no matter what I did on my own, the skin was never going to go away,  I had gone to the right place.  He was going to help me.

I cried to my husband.  I couldn’t believe that the thing that had caused me such angst and misery was able to be fixed.  I couldn’t believe my husband was so supportive.  It was a huge thing to ask for and he never hesitated.  I can’t ever thank him enough.

My doctor told me I had severe diastasis recti and that he would be able to repair it when he performed a full tummy tuck and liposuction.  I was finally going to get the successful nudge I needed to make this exit on my life highway a scenic view and not a dreaded eyesore.

I know this route is not one everyone can do or may even agree with.  I  can say I knew this was right the moment I began speaking with the doctor.

I had already investigated and interviewed several doctors.   The one I chose was the Chief of Plastic Surgery and also taught at Johns Hopkins.  I recommend that if any of you out there decide to go this direction, you do the same- meet and interview docs.

It was also important for me that my plastic surgeon performed the surgery in a hospital and not a surgical “suite”.  This is a personal preference and one that proved to be smart later on.

So, it was settled.  I was going through with plastic surgery.  My surgery was scheduled for 07/01.  The first day of the month.  The first day to me.  I was so excited!

Tune in to the next installment of this amazing journey.

But first- my before photo…

 

(notice the excess skin and the fact that the weakened stomach muscles push out skin even further…)- also note the black bikini was purchased for photos.

 

 

 

Dear Melissa Graves,

One week ago at around the time I am composing this post, the unimaginable happened to your family.  I have been thinking and praying for your family since the news broke that evening that your son had been taken by an alligator at Disney.  I prayed harder than I have in some time.  And as hard as I was praying, I am sure it could not hold a candle to your pleas with God.

Here we are, one week later.  I am angry at God for your son not being found healthy.  This is one of those times that make me question so much.

Many times this week I found myself tearing up for you, a total and complete stranger.  Words truly cannot convey how so sorry I am for you and for your husband.

I wondered a few times this week why this was affecting me so differently than so many other horrific stories brought to us daily by the media and I realized, it hits close because it could have just as easily been me.   We were in Disney just a few short months ago.  I remember the joy I had in telling our children we were going to the most magical place on earth.  I remember being excited myself as a 39 year old woman because I knew- at my age- that it really is a magical place where dreams come true and good always wins.

I have tried to think of ways to help your family.  Some small token to let you know that my family felt your loss.  Across this great country of ours, we have felt for you.   We still do.

I have decided to donate several children’s books (classics and new releases) to our local libraries in Lane’s name and honor.  Inside each book, I will have a label explaining that the donation was made to honor Lane Graves, a little boy taken from his family and encouraging the adults reading these books at bedtime to snuggle a little closer and love a little harder.

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I encourage everyone reading this blog to please do the same and comment to me that you are.  I hope this small gesture brings you a smile during this unimaginable time.  To know that your boy is remembered.  He is being thought of and his life is mattered.  That because of your little boy, libraries across the USA (hopefully) will receive numerous donations and that countless parents will read the donation label and will give their little(s) an extra squeeze.  Hug a little harder.  Appreciate a little more what we all take for granted.

Please know that your little boy will be remembered and thought of in Maryland.  And so will you.  I will continue to pray for you and I will forever be sorry this happened to you and your family.

XOXO