Jolene, pt. 2

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So on a recent Friday I went and picked up an engine hoist and transmission jack from a rental outfit using my dad’s pickup. It’s a massive diesel rig with rear duals and an honest to God hydraulic lift in the bed, which impressed the heck out of the rental dudes who loaded the stuff onto it. I hopped out of the truck (well, it was more of a semi controlled fall, as the truck is very tall and I’m somewhat not springy) and found them regarding the back of the truck.

“You want me to put the lift down?” I asked.

“Uh, that’d be real good,” they replied, never taking their eyes from the truck. I’m pretty sure I saw the glint of saliva in the corner of one their mouths.

The lift came down, smooth as butter, and they each got that satisfied look, like they wanted to light a cigarette. I broke the reverie by holding out ratchet straps to them asking if they could secure the hoist and jack. I’m complete garbage with tie downs. They never work right for me and they’d work even less tight in front of these guys. They obliged and as they worked they commented that it looked like someone was getting ready to do some work on a vehicle.

“We’re pulling the engine out of my ‘65 Chevrolet,” I told them. Between that and the cool truck-bed lift I had now amassed a modicum of credibility amongst the tool rental guy crowd, exactly the kind of demographic a middle aged lesbian strives to impress.

I drove away with my rented machinery, reveling in the glory of it all on a fine sunny Friday in September.

Jolene, pt. 1

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So I’m probably the luckiest person in the world. Except when I’m not, but that’s a story for another time.

A little over a week ago my dad and brother came over and we spent a carefree five days removing the engine and transmission from my 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air, Jolene.

Jolene ran when I bought her, although not super well. She brought me home safely from where I found her in Olympia, over an hour away, but I couldn’t tell you how fast I drove because over about 45 miles an hour the speedometer needle bounced around. It was a bit of a job staying in the lines, her steering was that sloppy. I stopped for gas early on because of course the gas gauge didn’t worth either. But I was ridiculously happy.

Once home I sent her for a little sleep away at the mechanics where she behaved tolerably well, aside from the way one of her ball joints fell completely apart when they put her up on the lift. Her steering was considerably improved after the subsequent front end job.

She sat in the driveway and then in my garage for the past two years, waiting for me to have time and money to start the process of restoration. Then last spring I had some difficulty with the Subaru (the Impreza with the crappy brake design, a pox forever upon its name) and we needed a more powerful vehicle to tow the trailer anyway. We traded in both of our cars on the Juggernaut and bought my little Mazda back from our friend’s son as a little around-town car to tide me over until Jolene could be brought back to life, Jolene who had spent last winter emptying her cast iron bowels onto my garage floor.

I ordered an engine from a company in Spokane where my dad lives, and because they didn’t have it done on time it then spent a few months in the garage of one of my dad’s friends, waiting for the weather to calm down and not actively try to kill us. My dad is reasonably hale and hearty but he’s of a Certain Age and I’d like to not contribute directly to his actual expiration by asking him to wrench on my old car in some kind of crazy swamp heat out there.

Finally the stars aligned and we had a fairly mild weekend mostly free of other obligations, and so it began.

Fat Loser

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So just over a week ago I stepped onto the scale, as I do every morning when not vacationing in some exotic locale, expecting that I would still be burdened by the same couple of wretched pounds I’ve been struggling with for the past few weeks.

I embarked upon this one way ticket to smallerness (a new word I just made up, patent pending etc etc) toward the end of February in anticipation of surgery on March 14th. We had eaten as we pleased the last few weeks before starting the preop diet, having numerous “food funerals” along the way.

I’m now going to put numbers in this accounting of my Slog Toward Smallerness, which is something I’ve put off doing because numbers make it real. Numbers make it specific, and bring shame upon the weight bearer. Numbers lay the body bare.

I started this at 295 pounds exactly, according to my bathroom scale, stark naked at the end of the day.

Ok so weighing yourself to get your starting weight at the end of the day is kind of cheating, because you generally weigh more at the end of the day, especially after having several last meals of fatty deliciousness. Then when you weigh yourself in the mornings, after using the restroom and shedding your pajamas, you magically seem to have lost more weight than perhaps you can take actual credit for. But still. That’s my official starting weight. (Shh, just let me have this.)

Surgery weight was 271. This was after three weeks of the preop diet which is designed not for weight loss so much as to shrink your poor, bloated liver. If you’re overweight, chances are high that your liver is fatty. They have to get in behind the liver to hack mercilessly at surgically remove part of your stomach, so the risks to you are reduced if your liver is petite and well-behaved. Still, I lost 24 pounds eating almost no carbs and a limited amount of protein for those three weeks.

In the ensuing six months since surgery I have lost an additional 72 pounds, for a total of 96. I now weigh under 200 pounds for the first time since I was about thirty.

That’s what I found out that day when I stepped on the scale, expecting to see some variation of Not Yet Under 200 Pounds. Instead I saw the blessed display: 199.5

I set this as my first major goal, to reach “onederland,” and decided my prize would be a Levi’s jacket. I had one in high school and have always wanted another.

I ordered it and it should be here before too long.

I feel amazing.

My next goals will be probably ten pound increments — weight loss is still occurring but has slowed down considerably, since moving around now takes less energy and my body is starting to fight back and try to hold onto its beloved avoirdupois. But I think I can take a few more pounds off. My goal has never been to be stick thin or wear a certain size — just to be healthy and comfortable. If I never lost another ounce it would have been worth it and I’d be perfectly happy. I’m off metformin, my cholesterol is good, I can walk farther and do more things, I just feel better. Life is very, very good.

Ridiculously satisfied with myself

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So every year that it is happening The Lovely Rhonda and I attend the three nights of Dave Matthews at the Gorge Amphitheater over Labor Day. My birthday is September 7th so sometimes it’s right at my birthday which is cool.

The way Labor Dave works is that you camp for the long weekend, from Thursday to Monday, and you hang out with your friends. There is carousing and eating and drinking and whatever. The Gorge campground is a bustling place and gets rather crazy. We camp in the ADA section which is purportedly less wild and crazy than the non restricted section, of which I have heard such tales that would make your proverbial wig flip right into another dimension.

The first year that we started doing this we jokingly named our encampment Camp Morningwood because it was us boring old married two lesbians, our friend Joni (straight and unattached), and Robert (also straight and unattached). We ladies are in our forties (okay, possibly our Extremely Late Forties) while Robert is youthful. Like 30ish? We don’t actually know, because we respect his privacy.

The next year we had a few more people and I made a Camp Morningwood sign from a canvas painter’s drop cloth which we proudly display in our camp. Every year we list the year and camp inhabitants. Visitors are asked to sign. It’s a thing.

The next year after that, I made a Camp Morningwood flag with a Sharpie and a piece of white tarp material that we had hanging around camp, and we started running it up a flagpole that Robert brings every year. It has brown duct tape on it and we just punched a couple of little holes in it to string it up, like so:

Primitive

Sometime over the past year or so I bought a grommet kit at Cheap Tool Store and threw it in the garage and today I actually managed to locate it and use it, which is pretty much just short of miraculous.

First I put a grommet in one of the corners of the flag and oh my gosh. It was deeply satisfying.

New hotness

I have now placed grommets in the corners of one of our drop cloths as well as both corners of the flag, and have a couple more drop cloths to go but it was starting to get warm in the garage so I’ll finish it later, likely tomorrow. (We use the drop cloths as shade panels that we hang from the sides of our pop up shelters, because I am a pink skinned Scandinavian who burns easily.)

So what I’m saying is, if you have always wanted to place grommets in things, go to Cheap Tool Store and get you a kit! It’s crazy easy!

‘Nother Update

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So you guys.

I bought a belt today.

I haven’t owned a belt in literally years.

At this point I’ve lost more than ninety pounds. When I last measured myself a little over a month ago, I’d lost 26 inches off of my various body parts from pre-surgery measurements. I’ve gone from barely fitting into size 24/3x plus-sized clothing to wearing size 16/18 pants and L/XL tops.

I went to a Fred Meyer store a little while ago and had some time to kill while I waited for a prescription, so I wandered into the clothing department and by habit went straight to plus sizes.

You guys. There was no longer anything there for me. Nothing there fits me anymore.

Recently we cleaned out our closet down to the winter coats and sweaters. Everything went except a few cardigans. I bought new coats at Costco. We donated most of the clothing to a clothing swap at a friend’s church and she told me that the larger ladies there were so happy to get clothes. It was a LOT of clothing. SO MUCH. I gave some jeans to another friend and she was happy too. We’re all just so happy over here it’s almost repulsive.

The Lovely Rhonda has lost a similar amount of weight and inches and is similarly sized to me (except I’m taller and wider in the shoulder). We tried on our motorcycle gear the other day. Our jackets were ludicrous. The sleeves hung from our arms and we looked like little kids trying on grandpa’s coats. We took it all to the consignment shop and put it up for sale, and looked for new gear while we were there. TLR found a brand new ladies jacket in size large that fit her, which pleased her to no end. I found a Triumph jacket, used but in excellent shape! Men’s, so it’s a little long in the arm and snug in the waist, but I’m happy for now.

Back to the belt thing.

I’ve recently given away most of the size 20 jeans I had bought at Ross and Goodwill just a couple of months ago, having come to the conclusion that I really was going to keep losing weight even though it feels like magic and like it won’t keep happening. Today I put on some size 18s that felt suspiciously loose.

You know how jeans get kinda baggy over the course of the day? By lunch time I was over it. I happened to be going to the Danner boot outlet store anyway so while I was there hanging out with my brother I bought a belt. And now it’s holding my pants up.

I also got new boots the other day (which my brother envied, hence the trip to the Danner store where he also got new boots today) so here’s a picture of those. My old boots are also from Danner and lasted me seven years, but they are pretty trashed and not rebuildable. These are my Forever Boots, according to TLR. I can take these in and have them repaired and rebuilt if needed. I love them.

Something’s Afoot

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So about six weeks ago I stepped on something in our laundry room/pantry. I thought it was a grain of cat litter and kept trying to brush it off my foot but it wouldn’t come off.

It wouldn’t come off because it turned out to be a piece of glass stuck in the bottom of my precious beautiful foot and now you get to hear the saga of what fun I’ve been having hosting this complete parasite for weeks.

A few hours after the usurper stabbed itself into my poor unsuspecting hoof I finally gave up on the idea that it was a mere crumb of litter and sat down to examine it more closely. After some painful attempts to extract whatever it was I asked The Lovely Rhonda to help and between us we managed to get what appeared to be a piece of glass out. I would have rejoiced but oh man did it hurt.

The evil bit of beer bottle (or whatever it was) glinted malevolently at me, but I just scoffed and threw it in the trash. Little was I to know the tribulations I would face at the remaining hands — shards? — of this little bastard, lo these several weeks hence.

A few days later I noticed that my foot hurt, not excruciatingly but more like irritatingly, every time I walked. Which, you know, is like every single day. This went on for a bit and then I realized that we were about to leave on the Epic Family Vacation to the East Coast and maybe I should get it looked at by a professional, since it was still bugging me and we were going to be traipsing all over four major cities for close to a month.

I went to an urgent care and a smug, restless MD in crisp scrubs sent me for x-rays. He didn’t see any glass in my foot, told me it was inflammation, and advised me to wear cushy shoes and take ibuprofen.

I can do neither of these things. I have to wear hard plastic orthotics in my shoes just to walk upright, and I can’t take NSAIDS because I have a tiny delicate remodeled stomach. So yeah, thanks for that, Doctor McUseless.

We went on the glorious vacation and dutifully traipsed through all the major sights of the aforementioned four major cities, and each day I put a bandaid over the supposedly inflamed area of my foot and just got on with it. We covered 4-6 miles of walking a day, which for a Traditionally Built woman such as myself, with the flat feet and the arthritis and the missing hamstring etc was a significant amount of trudging.

We returned from this epic journey a couple of days ago, and I was too busy starting a new clinical instructor gig to even think about having the foot examined again, but finally today I couldn’t take it any longer and managed to get a same-day appointment at my usual doctor’s office. My provider wasn’t in but I saw a delightful MD there who was willing to give this thing a try.

For an appetizer we started off with a piquant injection of lidocaine directly into my foot. It sucked and I said some Interesting Things right out loud, which did not seem to alarm the good doctor. I imagine that if your job is to occasionally jab people with pointy objects and get paid handsomely to do so, you get used to the occasional bit of salty language.

Next we moved on to the salad course, which involved a scalpel carving into my poor unsuspecting foot-meats. Which were insensate, and it’s a good thing. Because then came the main course of using tweezers to fish around inside my foot in search of stray bits of glass. At least two were extracted. It was difficult to tell how many were removed because a) they were tiny pieces and b) there was blood. So much blood. And c) the glass was brownish and difficult to see in all that blood.

Did I mention I was bleeding my own actual blood during this part? Because I totally was.

We wrapped up this romantic occasion with irrigating the gaping hole copiously with saline in hopes of flushing out any further hangers-on. It really makes the whole event to have a syringe jammed into a cunning new entrance into your foot’s interior spaces. Just adds a certain je ne sais quois.

The tech applied a sassy little bandage to the terrorized appendage and off I went, having been instructed to not bear weight on that foot for a few days and soak the wound four times a day in salt water “to keep it open.”

EW EW EW

If this doesn’t work I get to visit with Mr Surgeon for a more in-depth plumb of the depths of my foot.

Why we won’t be staying there again

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So we booked a moderately priced chain hotel for the NYC portion of our trip and whilst we may stay in a moderately priced chain hotel again, we won’t be staying at this particular Uncomfortable Lodging, and I’m so glad you asked me for the details.

For starters, the room was almost impossibly tiny. Which was kind of expected but for real, you couldn’t swing a kitten in there let alone an actual cat. (Note: I do not condone the swinging of house pets unless the pet appears to enjoy it and then only under OSHA approved conditions)

Example of smallness: refrigerator located under tiny desk so that there was no space for legs should you wish to sit at desk for any reason. No actual wardrobe or closet, just a few hangers on a funky little rod hanging above a tiny shallow niche.

The rooms were reasonably well appointed but came with a hodgepodge of amenities that varied from day to day. Housekeeping took the soap out of our shower the second day but failed to replace it with a new bar. (Why take our soap? Like what the hell?) We used the washcloths but they never replaced those either. We had no ice bucket but the kids did. Whatever.

They never vacuumed the corridors during our stay. There was a giant snarl of hair on the floor outside our room, like someone had cleaned out a hairbrush. It appeared on the morning after we arrived and was still there when we left. The elevator just got grubbier and grubbier with bits of debris. When we went down to the basement for ice ( at the only ice machine for an eight story hotel) we were shocked to see two vacuum cleaners parked right outside a housekeeping closet. We didn’t know they had any.

The elevators were out of service part of the first couple of days we were there, but I suppose this could happen anywhere. To their credit they did get someone in right away to fix it.

Oh, the toilet. When we first arrived it made noises like a fighter jet taking off when flushed. This went in for a couple of days. Then it became blocked, and they sent “engineering” to plunge it, after which it did stop making that noise.

Breakfast. We were supposed to get breakfast each day. Just continental, nothing complicated. Our expectations were not grandiose. Which was handy, because they managed to not come close to meeting them.

First off we would send a couple of the kids down to get the food and each day they acted like the kids were lying when they were told there were five of us. So that’s nice. Secondly, there wasn’t always food available at the the appointed times and when Rhonda called down and asked if/when it would be coming the horrible gargoyle working the front desk would say “I don’t know!” as though it were a stupid question. “They haven’t told me anything!”

When we did get “breakfast” we got a brown paper sack with a granola bar that often contained nuts (I’m allergic), a Kool Aid Slammer (similar to a Capri Sun), always fruit punch flavored (the worst of all flavors), and either a banana or an applesauce cup. Uh, thanks. I guess.

I did check for bedbugs and didn’t see any evidence of them, and the linens were clean, the bed was comfortable, the tv worked, etc. I mean, it wasn’t gross. But it wasn’t that clean. The carpet felt kind of … greasy? underfoot,

2/10, do not recommend.

Who knew?

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So since surgery I’ve had to find alternative beverages from my once-beloved carbonated sodas. We are advised not to drink carbonated drinks anymore, and although I can belch like a longshoreman, I figure why get started again?

So, despite a life-long dislike of iced tea, I’ve started drinking Arnold Palmers which are half iced tea, half lemonade. I found lemonade to be too sweet and acidic on its own. I figured maybe cutting it with iced tea might make it tolerable.

HOLY CRUD YOU PEOPLE IT’S DELICIOUS

So I’ve been having them pretty much everywhere we go because they’re usually available and I get bored of regular water.

Friends, I have to tell you. Not all Arnold Palmers are created equal. Case in point: the other day I had the worst one yet. No actual tea or citrus fruits appeared to be harmed in the making of the beverage. Well, there was a limp slice of presumably lemon floating half-heartedly in the glass so I guess that’s not technically correct. It had a vaguely lemon-adjacent flavor but I never did detect anything reminiscent of tea.

Yesterday we went to a place called The Donut Pub, which I highly recommend for tasty donuts and friendly service — and also for the best AP so far, which was strongly flavored with both lemonade and tea.

Today we’re at a little spot called Hill & Bay which has a decent if rather unassuming AP, but which also has nice chicken wings and tots.

Earlier we stopped for a pretzel in the street and I got Diet Snapple Peach Tea and I have to say — it’s GOOD. Not technically an AP, but nice to have options.

I really did try to like iced tea in the past. It seemed refreshing, is easily obtained, you can sweeten it to your liking. But I just didn’t like it. Now I do. I was told that my tastes may really change after surgery, and that’s proven to be accurate. I am not a fan of really sweet things anymore, and if I have them it’s usually just a nibble and then the kids get the rest.

Iced tea. Who knew?

Tripping

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So we’re taking the Collective Spawn to the East coast for a bit of sight seeing and we leave tomorrow.

One may wonder to oneself: Self? Is now the ideal time to pursue expensive travel? Now, a mere three weeks after moving into new offices and a scant two weeks into training our very competent but brand new office assistant? Is it, self?

And the answer may well be, No, it may not be the ideal time to go, but by God it’s the time we’re going! Because The Lovely Rhonda hath decreed it be so, and who are we to deny this woman her dreams?

We’re starting off in Boston, home of the Tea Party and baked beans and some other stuff.

(Later)

Boston was swell. We took the subway and then bus directly to the Airbnb — an extremely clean, entirely white top floor unit of a triple decker building. The floors were recently refinished and very shiny hardwood. There was absolutely no art or bric-a-brac anywhere in the apartment. There were also absolutely no extra pillows or blankets, so we were one pillow short and a little chilly. The owner was out of town so no help there. Still, like the founding pilgrims, we forged on despite hardship.

We used a hop on, hop off tour to see the major sights and soak up a bit of the history, and then ventured off to the things that seemed interesting. We saw the reproduction ships and museum of the Tea Party, visited the Museum of Fine Arts, took a day trip to Salem, went to the New England Aquarium, took a harbor cruise. We ate dinner in Little Italy and had cannoli from Mike’s Pastry. We are fried clams at Legal Seafood and they were delicious.

I personally average about a half mile to a mile per day of steps at home, which has been normal for me for years what with the general state of disrepair of my knees and feet, obesity, etc. It’s bumped up a bit since the surgery as I now take the dogs to the park a couple of times per week (ish) and walk at least twice around the gravel path, which is a half mile in length. This trip, so far, we’re in the 4 miles per day range. My feet and knees are definitely feeling it but I’m not dying. Mostly. I take prescribed codeine to take the edge off on very bad days and haven’t had to hit it as hard as I did when we went to Europe a few years ago.

Right now we’re in New York City, which I’ve never been to before. It’s a trip, you guys! Once again we’re taking the subway and bus around, we had a hop on hop off tour, and we’re doing a harbor cruise tomorrow.

Today was Pride so we got to see a sort of half-assed not-quite-post-Covid version of Pride. There was no official parade but the route it would have taken was barricaded along the sidewalks anyway. It wasn’t blocked at the streets so whatever did sporadically go by (mostly groups of various sorts with signs, or a couple of times balloon-encrusted cars bearing the parade marshals, and sometimes rainbow-bedecked Ordinary Citizens with a momentary need for attention) had to pause at the intersections, and there were police officers there to direct traffic. We went on a Pride walking tour which was very informative and worth the time, although it being the middle of Pride it was difficult to get around to the various sites. At the end of it we found ourselves joining the March which was also a good time. Who doesn’t love chanting about dismantling the patriarchy with thousands of scantily clad rainbow-decked queers? It was worth going for the people-watching alone.

Also, the Teletubbies were in attendance and gave me a pair of socks so that was pretty cool.

Tomorrow we’re going to the 9-11 Memorial and on a harbor cruise, and to Ellis Island. And whatever other trouble we can find to get into.

On Food

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So we have been on the road the past few days and negotiating eating in restaurants and on the fly for the first time since surgery. Here are some things I found interesting:

1) We heard in the Facebook support group for our bariatric surgery group that one thing you have to get used to is wasting food. You can’t eat anything close to a regular sized restaurant meal anymore, even the “lighter fare” smaller meals they offer. Even children’s menu meals are too big. This is super true. This morning The Lovely Rhonda and I split a lighter meal of a two egg scramble with ham and cheese, hash browns and English muffin. We each ate about half of the half order of scramble on our plates, a couple of bites of the half order of hash browns, and a couple bites of the half English muffin. So between us, half the meal was left behind.

Of course, at home we save leftovers and don’t actually waste the food, but you get the idea. We really do eat very little.

2) It appears the sugar monkey on my back is at least muzzled. I had a tiny piece of cake with a little dab of ice cream last week on my daughter’s birthday and it made me super weird. Well, weirder. I felt kind of sick to my stomach and then super tired for a while. I’m not saying I’m off all sugar for good, but I won’t be eating more than a bite here and there.

3) I don’t really miss soda. Once I gave it up the spell was broken. Some people can still have carbonated drinks after this surgery but a lot of people cannot tolerate them due to the tiny stomach/no room for gas issue. I am a world champion belch queen from way back and could probably have them, but why?

I have started to order the occasional Arnold Palmer because I like lemonade but it’s too sweet, I like iced tea only sort of, and the combination of the two isn’t bad.

Also, and this is TMI so stop reading now if you don’t care to know, carbonation and caffeine are irritants to the bladder. Guess who no longer has to pee constantly and urgently? I’m super cool with this. I have also found that sugar free drink mixes like Crystal Light contain something that my bladder doesn’t like, maybe the malic acid, so I don’t have those very often either. They are now a sometimes thing when I just want something other than water, and I like them diluted anyway. Harm reduction, people!