Thursday, December 29, 2011

Three-Year Anniversary

As many of you know, on December 23, 2008, I underwent weight-loss surgery. My doctor had urged me to choose gastric bypass but I stubbornly stuck to my choice of Lap-band. Dr. S warned that I probably wouldn't lose as much weight as I needed to with Lap-band, but I didn't like the idea of my insides being rearranged and figured that any weight loss would be better than none. At my heaviest the thought of losing even 100 lbs (or even just 50) sounded like a miracle.

Three years later and I have lost 184 lbs! Yep, a whole person! What's great is that I'm still losing weight - very, very slowly. In June 2010 I reached my personal goal of losing half of my body weight; I weighed 175 and had lost 175 lbs. To celebrate, I went skydiving with my cousins Alyson and Cassie. Since then I have lost another 9 lbs and now weigh 167 lbs (before this week of Christmas overindulgence). I'm very pleased with how I look (except the excess skin) and am beyond thrilled with how I feel. I feel GREAT!

A few weeks ago, I went in to see my surgeon after not seeing him since June 2010. I needed a slight adjustment to my band - it felt too tight - and the timing worked out to be able to go to St. George for an appointment with him. I'm so glad I went in! Not only do I feel better since having the adjustment, but also because Dr. S said seeing me reminded him of the reason he does weight loss surgeries. He said that he sees so many patients fail to make the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight and keep it off. To see me lose more weight than he thought I would and to have kept it off for so long made him feel really good about his job. I told him that having the surgery saved my life and it really did.

I was morbidly obese. I hadn't developed some of the health complications that come with being morbidly obese, but I'm sure they weren't far off. I had noticed my blood pressure start to creep up just past normal, diabetes was probably at my doorstep, and who knows what else was going to develop if I didn't lose weight. My mom had said numerous times that she worried I'd die before I was 40. I kind of worried about that too, but I didn't know what to do about it. Sometimes I felt so utterly hopeless that death held a sort of appeal - then I wouldn't have to worry about being so large any more.

My stepmother was the one who had the idea for me to have weight loss surgery. My half sister's babysitter had lap-band surgery and had lost 70 lbs in a few months. Paula and my dad discussed the surgery decided to offer to help me pay for it if I chose to have it done. When I finally decided to go ahead with it, six months after their initial offer, I talked to Paula about my weight. She said she thought I was beautiful no matter what, but she worried that I had stopped living life, that I held back on really enjoying it and on doing things I wanted to do because of my weight. It was so true. I'm blessed with a naturally positive and happy nature, so it wasn't like I was miserable, but I could see how I had changed as my weight steadily increased. I will appreciate Paula's insights and for her and my dad's willingness to help me for as long as I live.

Losing 184 lbs has saved my life! Not only because of the weight-related illnesses that have been avoided but also because of the life I now live that I wouldn't otherwise. I'm married, for crying out loud! I would never have dreamed of joining an online dating site if I had stayed at 300+ lbs, so I would never have met my husband, the most wonderful man I've ever known. I have had many adventures that I would have skipped because of my weight, I have been able to do things like bike riding that I hadn't done since I was a kid because I was too heavy to do them. Even simple things like going to the movies or sitting in a restaurant booth are easier and more enjoyable because I don't have to squeeze into the seats! Even though it's been 3 years since my surgery, I still got a spark of joy when Steve and I went the the Nutcracker ballet and I fit easily into the small theatre seats - with room to spare!

Someone recently said to me that they kind of missed the old Julie. I'm not sure what that means, since I feel like the same person just with less body mass, but if I am different, I don't miss the "old" me. I love how I look and how I feel. I love how much healthier my body is. If there has been a non-physical change in me, it's how much hope I feel now, how excited I am by the future, how happy I am. I don't limit myself any more because of what my body looks like. And, I like shopping more now. Otherwise, I'm still me.

Weight loss surgery isn't an Easy button; it is a tool. It is effective only as much as you use it to help you change your lifestyle. There's always ways to circumvent it, but why would you spend all that money to do what you've always done? One definition of "crazy" is doing the same things you've always done and expecting different results. I definitely am not perfect with my eating (I LOVE chocolate!) but the band helps me control how much I eat and most of the time I do eat responsibly. Exercise, though, is uber important to me! It helps "erase" some of the chocolate, ice cream, etc. that I eat and it really is good for the soul as well as the body.

In conclusion, I can't believe it's been three years since I had my surgery. Back then I had no idea where I would be today, but I had hope that the results would be worth it. They are!

Here are a few pictures of my weight loss journey:

October 2008 - 350 lbs

December 21, 2008 - 351 lbs

The doctor's office took these pictures a couple days before surgery.

February 2009 - 299 lbs!

Summer 2009 - 250 lbs! (Lost 100 lbs!)

Late summer 2009

Fall 2009

April 2010 - 185 lbs

June 1011 - 171 lbs (lost 180 lbs!)

Dec. 23, 2011 - 167 lbs (lost 184 lbs!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

In the Spirit of Christmas

Can you believe that Christmas is in just a few days?? Last night, lying in bed, I realized that a week from then would be Christmas night - all the presents would be open, Christmas Eve dinner would be eaten (except for some leftover, hopefully), and it would be another year until Christmas Day again. This month has gone by so quickly, and yet I'm feeling more Christmas spirit than I have in many years.

One reason may be due to having finished my Christmas shopping weeks ago. Steve and I knew that we wouldn't have much time together to do Christmas shopping until after we needed to deliver the presents to their intended receivers, so the weekend before Thanksgiving, we cranked out most of our shopping for our family members - including four people's birthdays! During the next couple weeks, we both finished shopping for each other and managed to wrap all the presents! It's kind of hard to get the presents for people so far in advance because I'm not patient about giving them - I want them to open the presents immediately because I'm so excited! However, it's been heavenly not having to worry about what to buy people and to not have to mess with the stores (too much) and the people milling inside. It's a weight off our shoulders, making my spirits so much lighter!

A bigger part of my Christmas spirit is due to last week. My husband took last week off, so we were able to spend a lot of time together, choosing to do some very Christmas-y activities. Here's a quick run-down of our fun, with pictures when available (not as much as I would have liked).

December 9-11: We drove to Cedar City for my youngest brother's wedding. Technically not "Christmas" but the decorations had a slight Christmas feel and their colors were red, white, and black. Everything was beautiful and what says Christmas more than love? It was great to see my brother marry such a lovely woman, to welcome two great little kids into my heart, to spend time with all my family, and to be reminded of the vows I made to my wonderful husband and to have the love I feel for him strengthened in many small and great ways.

Monday, December 12: Drove home after taking a quick trip to St. George to see my WLS surgeon. All is well and he is so thrilled that I'm doing so well. Me too, doc! When we got home, we curled up on the couch and watched a couple Christmas TV specials that we had recorded, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "A Charlie Brown Christmas Special". I love both shows, but I have a special place in my heart for the latter - it really touches me.

Tuesday, December 13: We cleaned all morning, and I mean cleaned! We had been so busy (and sick) lately that our house was not looking too well. Not only did we do the standard cleaning, but we also did some of the nitpicky things that don't get done as often like cleaning base boards and window sills. I had been a little grumpy at the start of the day but when we finished cleaning, my spirit felt refreshed. It really is true that a clean house helps one's least it does mine. Having a clean house helped our very few but precious Christmas decorations and lovely tree really shine. That night, we watched "White Christmas", yet another classic Christmas movie that makes me very happy. Steve hadn't seen it for ages and was amused that I could quote it (but didn't too often to be annoying) and could sing along to all the songs (see last parenthetical note). Is there any greater Christmas movie moment than when the back of the stage opens up to the beautiful snowy Vermont scene while Bing and company sing White Christmas? I get chills every time I watch it.

I love our tree!

Wednesday, December 14: Steve and I went to see the new movie "Arthur Christmas". I knew it had received great reviews, but so had "The Muppets". I really enjoyed "The Muppets" (in large part because I was watching it with many family members, including nieces and nephews) but I didn't LOVE it, just liked it a lot. So, I was skeptical about "Arthur Christmas", really really skeptical. In fact, I had wanted to see "The Descendants" but the time schedule was better for "Arthur Christmas" and it's Christmas time and all, so we went to see it. I LOVED it! I laughed, I teared up, I got excited and anxious, and I felt Christmas. This is a movie I would like to own and watch every year with my own kids, if I ever have any, or with my nieces and nephews if I don't.

Thursday, December 15: At the beginning of the week, while watching tv, we saw a commercial for The Nutcracker. I said, "Oh how fun! I haven't seen that in years and years!" Next thing I know, Steve, my wonderful husband who doesn't love ballet/opera/fancyschmancyplays/etc., had bought us two tickets! So, this evening I put on my second-fanciest dress (having left my new dress for Kevin's wedding in Cedar, frustrating!), glammed up as much as I'm capable of being, and headed off with a very handsome husband to the ballet. I loved walking into Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake, watching the people mill about - especially the little girls who were loving being dressed up almost as much as me, and enjoying my overpriced mint chocolates and chocolate covered raspberries that my husband spoiled me with. The ballet was wonderful! I love the music, the story, the dancing, and especially the costumes. Time flew by, and even Steve enjoyed it more than he thought he would (though he wouldn't use "enjoy" to save his life).

Me before "The Nutcracker".
Not the best picture, but it was the best I could do.

Friday, December 16: Realizing that our budget was pretty much shot this month but still trying to be somewhat fiscally responsible, we decided to have a money-free date night. We ate a lovely homemade dinner of Swedish meatballs (first time every making them!), and then went to the Christmas Village in Ogden. It's one of our family traditions - second year! - and one I really enjoy. This year wasn't nearly as cold as last year, but it was still really nippy! I love the lights all around the park, the trees dressed in different colors, the houses with beautiful, whimsical scenes, and all the people and kids to provide great watching opportunities. I love walking around hand-in-hand with Steve. Back at home, we drank hot chocolate while bundled up on the couch, snuggled together, watching "Scrooged". What a funny, irreverent, heart-warming movie! I hadn't seen it before last year when Steve introduced it to me. It's another family tradition.

Saturday, December 17: We found out that Steve ended up having to work a few hours this day, right during the time we had planned to go to Salt Lake to see some of my family, go ice skating, and see the lights on Temple Square. Instead, my wonderful family came up to our house so that Steve could still be apart of our day together, though missing a few hours of it. It was my wonderful mom's birthday, so before they arrived, Steve and I bought a cake and some decorations and had everything ready for when Mom walked through the door. It was fun to see her surprise and happiness with the decorations (I forgot to take a picture at the time, but below is a incomplete re-creation).

There was also a German Chocolate cake and a few presents. It was fun!

We had lunch, she opened her presents, we played some games, Steve left for work, Cassie came, we did a little shopping at Hobby Lobby (love it!), then we bundled up and headed to the Christmas Village in Ogden. We started with Santa. Robbie was really excited to see him, and we thought it best to wait in line before it got too cold (it was already dark). I was impressed with how well Robbie did with Santa. Some kids end up getting scared, but not him. He said "Hi Santa!", climbed up on his lap, told Santa what he wants for Christmas, and then wished Santa a "Merry Christmas!". It was so cute! Then, because I'm a big kid at heart and wanted a candy cane that I hadn't stolen (yes, I stole a couple candy canes - I gave one to my mom), I sat on Santa's lap. I asked for another dog, a greyhound. I haven't decided for sure that I want another greyhound (though we're pretty sure we're going to get another dog next Spring), but it was all I could think of with such short notice.

Look at my cutie-patootie nephew! And isn't this a great-looking Santa?!

Dear Santa, please see my last blog post to see what I want for Christmas.

After Santa, we rode the little train in the middle of the Christmas village. It was only 50 cents per person and adults could ride it too (it was a really small train!). Being a kid at heart, I loved it! So did Robbie, who was the real reason we rode the train. I wish we had pictures of this! Oh well. We walked around the village, and I really got a kick out of how interested Robbie was in all the houses and their inner scenes. I thought he wouldn't be because he couldn't go inside, but he loved looking at them. He's such a cutie! Even though this was my second time seeing it in as many days, it was a different experience with my family. It was a lot of fun! I just with all my brothers and their families could have been there.

If you look closely, you can see Robbie at the igloo's door.

Cassie and Mom standing with a really big moose.

When we all got too cold, we headed to a nearby Italian restaurant. Luckily, Steve got off work a little early and was able to meet us there before we got seated. I was so happy to see him! Everyone parted ways after dinner, so Steve and I headed home alone. Again, we cuddled on the couch with mugs of hot chocolate and watched tv (we're loving season 1 of Raising Hope).

Sunday, December 18: Nothing. We didn't do a darn thing! I didn't even leave the house! (Steve was sweet enough to take the dog for her walks by himself so I wouldn't have to go out in the cold.) I read and read and read. It felt wonderful. I couldn't be this lazy every day, but after a few weeks of being busy (and sick), it was nice to be this lazy one day.

It was a really wonderful week with lots of Christmas fun, family, and spending time with Steve. This week he's back at work, so it will be less exciting, but I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We have some fun things planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (opening presents!!!).

I hope that you're all getting into the spirit of Christmas, that you're able to spend time with the marvelous people in your lives, and that with all the hustle and bustle of the season you're still able to feel the true meaning of the holiday...the perfect love of our Father and His Son and the hope and peace that this love brings to all of our lives.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

2011 Christmas Wish List

Before starting this post, I looked at last year's Christmas Wish List and was a little surprised to see that I got pretty much everything on it throughout the year. The best present, of course, was the ring and what it meant. You can read about how I got the engagement ring here. I still sometimes look down at my finger in amazement - I'm married! It has been so good being married to Steve this year and I really look forward to many years of being together.

Sadie, our cute, funny greyhound, has also been a wonderful gift. She keeps me company when Steve is at work during the night, and we both have fun playing with her expecially as time passes and her personality developes more into a pet than a racer.

I've had two jobs this year - one that was far from home and not totally enjoyable and one that is close to home and really enjoyable. The latter pays much much less than the former, but it just feels good to have a job, to be contributing to the family income, and it's perfect for me while going to school.

Steve and I play Mario Kart quite frequently and I still manage to beat him every now and then (I used to cream him, but he got good).

I hope all my friends and family found love and joy this year, but I know at least one did. My brother Kevin is getting married this weekend! I'm so happy he found someone special who loves him like he deserves to be loved.

I even discovered a couple local friends that I can see without having to travel too far! Of course, now with school and homework, I don't have as much time to hang out with them, but at least I could. They're good friends, too, friends I've known for years so feel comfortable being with. That reminds me, I need to get in contact with them and make plans for getting together in the next couple weeks!

Life has been so good to me, I feel almost selfish asking for anything else. Almost. Really, it would be selfish of me NOT to post this list. If I didn't, how would you know what to get me? *mischievous grin*

So, for your benefit more than mine, here's my Christmas Wish List: (you're welcome)

1. Perfect hair. If we're going to be 100% honest (which I always am), I would LOVE hair that goes halfway to my bum, thich and luxurious, not limp with lots of split-ends. Hair that naturally dries into the perfect hair - wavy curls, shiny, lots of body and bounce - so I don't have to spend any time on doing it. Leaving the land of fantasy, I'd settle for hair that hit my shoulders and dried into the perfect hair - straight without any kinks or frizziness, shiny, lots of body and bounce - without having to beat it into submission with a blow dryer and a 2" round brush. Even my current short hairstyle requires a few minutes with both. *disgruntled sigh*

2. A remodeled kitchen. My current kitchen isn't too shabby, it has some nice features; however, it also has a very out-dated and too-small oven and the stovetop is located on the island, separate from the oven, and is also really old. In my perfect kitchen (that fits into my current house - we won't get started on my absolute PERFECT kitchen), I'd have a double oven (a smaller oven on top of a larger one, but still about the same height of a regular oven) with a flat stovetop since our kitchen isn't set up for a gas range. I'd like the microwave to be above the stove, doubling as a vent for the stove. The island would be devoted to workspace, with a few extra electrical outlets around it. The current stove hood/vent/fan that is above the island would be replaced with either nothing or one of those fancy pot hangers (as long as I wouldn't be constantly hitting my head on it like I do our current hood). I'd love a bigger fridge - one with the french doors for the fridge and the freezer is a pull-out drawer on the bottom. I know some people don't like this set-up, but I'm pretty sure it would be ideal for me.

3. A honeymoon. Steve and I had a nice wedding weekend with a night's stay at a bed and breakfast in Salt Lake, but I would like a true honeymoon - a week somewhere fun and exotic. My top choices would be: Europe (Spain, Denmark, Germany, Italy - in that order), Japan/China, a cruise to anywhere warm or Alaska, Montreal or Quebec City, western Canada, or to any state that I haven't been to yet. So, almost anywhere. :)

4. A puzzle. Nothing too challenging like the ones my mom and Corey used to put together, just a pretty puzzle with 1000 or so pieces that would give my mind something to do when it needs a break from homework. A card table to go with the puzzle would be nice, too, so I wouldn't have to use my kitchen table.

5. A lifetime supply of chocolate. I'm thinking of a piece of chocolate - not too big or too small, maybe 2" square - that comes in the mail every day (two on Saturday so I have one for Sunday). Each day would be a different chocolate; sometimes milk, sometimes dark, sometimes with nuts, sometimes a truffle, sometimes a chocolate brownie or cake, etc. I think if I knew I would have one piece of chocolate every day for the rest of my life, I'd be pretty happy and content and would probably lose weight because that one piece would satisfy me, especially knowing that I'd get another piece the next day. And how fun would it be to try all different types of chocolate? If I really really really didn't like one type, I could request never to be sent it again, or if there was one I especially loved I could request it come more frequently. I think heaven will consist of a deal like this. Otherwise, would it really be heaven?

6. Love, happiness, and peace for my family and friends. It's a repeat from last year, but it's worth repeating. In fact, it's something I hope and pray for every day. The people in my life are what make my life so enjoyable, they deserve the best of what life has to offer. In fact, I also wish for lots of time this next year with my family and friends. Every time I get to see them is a gift.

It's unbelievably difficult to come up with a wish list when I have everything I've ever really wished for. It makes me feel so blessed.

I hope that whatever is on your Christmas Wish list is "under your tree" this next year!