The Hernia Recovery

Last week marked another surgery for my husband R. He had a significant hernia on the right side of his lower abdomen that until recently did not cause him any discomfort or pain.

That day did not begin well… but it ended with a surprise.

We were getting ready to leave for the VA hospital at 6:30 am. My mother arrived early to help the kids get ready for school and then drop them off. We didn’t need to be there until 8:00 am so we were fine… until we got a call from the reception area saying he was a half hour late!

R was supposed to get a phone call a few days before and when none came, an answering service told him that he didn’t have to be there until 8.

On the way there, R was hungry and cranky and highly annoyed. As much pain as he was in, as exhausted he was after having been through what he’s been through for the past four years, I needed to gently remind him that it was not the fault of the hospital workers who were about to check him in. It was not their fault nor the nurses who would scramble to get him prepped for surgery. It was not the fault of the doctors who were still able to fit him in. Rather the blame lies in an ineffective system that has frustrated and continued to frustrate thousands of veterans around the country.

When we were attached to a base and active duty, R’s medical needs and ours as a family were met so easily and without any hitch. Any questions I had were directed to his command or that of his command’s personal physicians or even the ombudsman. Hell, if I even had a question in the middle of shopping at the commissary, I’m pretty sure there would be an aisle full of stay-at-home moms and spouses of veterans who could answer it right on the spot.

Today? If R had a question, he wouldn’t know who to ask let alone who to ask about asking. I can’t tell you how many times he’s called the VA only to hang up in frustration because he’s been transferred to so many people and so many departments. No one knows the answer to these questions.

After he got settled in, I settled in to the Starbucks with a soy caramel frappuccino. When I returned, the surgeon was surprised to meet me. “He’s never brought you to any of his appointments.”

I wanted to say, “Well, he’s a strong, independent woman and can do things without me.”

But I didn’t. I said something similar though without the joke.

I do, after all, have a job and career I am trying to restart. In fact, this is what I was doing all morning.

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It’s funny how when I insist on doing everything myself, I call it being INDEPENDENT yet when he insists on doing everything himself, I call it being STUBBORN. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think it’s funny.

His surgery went well and they could fix it without (pardon the visualization) slicing him open. Even more awesome is that he came home on the same day!

I don’t think that was expressed to the rest of the hospital as when I went to pick up his meds, the pharmacist insisted he was recovering on the third floor! Luckily we both had a sense of humor about it and he cleared it with a phone call.

The Half Life Half Marathon

I am currently in a state of recovery, having run my third half marathon ever– and in the same calendar year.

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I’ll be quite frank: it wasn’t pretty. Probably because of no training and date lunches with my husband.

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Would I do it all over again? No, probably not.

Is this my last half marathon ever? Eh, never say never. I met a wonderful fellow walker at mile nine and we both shuffled our way to the end. I sprained my left hip at mile two, miles six through ten had no shade from the sweltering sun, and I sprained my ankle at mile eight.

Despite all this, I still won’t say never.

Prequel to The Giants Excitation

Previously I posted pics from our last San Francisco Giants game and alluded to the fact that R has difficulty attending sports events due to his PTSD. I forgot to post pics of his first attempt!

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It is a scenic two and a half hour drive to San Francisco. What trip to the city is complete without going to Fisherman’s Wharf?

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We splurged at a restaurant on the wharf.

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Then we went to the game! We had great seats from Operation Care and Comfort.

It was not until we were seated that I could truly see how uncomfortable R was by being there. The hordes of people trying to get into the game, the rush to get to our assigned section, his chronic nerve pain, and just being around hundreds of people all contributed to his anxiety. He declared then and there that he cannot attend a major league sports game ever again. However, upon reflection later that week, he understands that he needs to try periodically. How often can only be determined by R alone. Only time will tell.

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GO GIANTS!

The Crocker Congruence

We got a family pass to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. There are so many wonderful events going on right now, including African-American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond.

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A even got a chance to contribute to the community quilt. She was so excited that she wanted to learn how to sew. I would help her but I’ve had quite a run in with a sewing machine that involved me at nine months pregnant, a fire truck, and kittens batting around the thread dangling from my index finger. Yes, I think lessons from Grandma or Joanne’s might be appropriate here.

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The girls found a hidden treasure at the museum. Who knew that a quaint space under a stairwell could hold so much potential for fun? They did!

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One of A’s favorite sculptures

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Here she is looking at a painting and saying, “Look at how many naked people are in this painting!”

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And more pics if their favorite art pieces:

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The Giraffe Juxtaposition

Having children in a year-round school has it’s pros and cons.

Cons:
- Having kids on different schedules. The girls are year-round but my son started junior high this year so there are three months of the year when one school is in session while the other is not.
– Having ME on a different schedule. I am on a different track than the girls!

Pros:
+ Kids are more likely to retain information over a shorter time span between grade levels.
+ Less burnout because kids (and teachers!) get regular breaks during the school year.

But the biggest pro of all is…

+ Making the most of the days that we are both off.

On this day, I took the girls to the zoo. We met another family who is on the same schedule as the girls. We brought our lunches and had a wonderful picnic in the zoo.

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The Vegan Variance

When we were stationed in Virginia nine years ago, I was everything. I worked full-time as a first grade teacher and took care of our two preschool age children by myself. R was hardly home and by hardly I mean roughly forty eight hours every six weeks or so when he wasn’t deployed for seven months at a time. I had to shop for our groceries and cook and clean and dozens of other tasks that single parents have to do alone.

Only I was still married. I started to think of myself as a married single parent. {Keep thinking about it. It will make sense soon.}

I found a routine for ourselves that worked. Sure, we ate out a couple of times a week but in an effort to not totally fill our diets with junk and to save money, we mostly ate at home.

We were pretty healthy. Veggies with every meal. Milk for the kids at every meal. Very little juice and very little carbs. Fruit for snacks. I started using the phrase “Sometimes Food” so that we wouldn’t think of certain foods as forbidden though the gamut of all sugar should be forbidden to me indefinitely.

I noticed that our meals mostly revolved around chicken or fish and rice. I liked eating red meat but didn’t care to purchase or prepare the fare; as a result, I learned to live without it. I rarely drank milk but I have been lactose intolerant all of my life.

Lately it’s been hard to avoid red meat simply because R enjoys grocery shopping and cooking. After all of the years we lived apart, he missed cooking for us. Who am I to keep a man from his dreams?

And also I’m lazy.

But being lazy has its downside.

I can’t control my food portions especially since the food is so delicious and made just for me! How do I say no to that?

About a month ago R had a very busy week at school which meant I took over the kitchen. I had the freedom to buy and prepare whatever I wanted. It wasn’t that R was anti-vegan yes he was, it’s just that he’d rather eat meat.

With turning forty in the month ahead and upon reflection of the plethora of health ailments from my parents, I started watching documentaries like Forks Over Knives with a keen interest in reversing what damage may have already occurred. What damage may be ahead.

Prior to my takeover, I talked to R about my concerns over our diet and my addiction to sugar. I wanted to change now so that ten to fifteen years from now I won’t have serious talk with my doctor about I needed to overhaul my lifestyle! We came to simple and completely doable solutions:

We would add more and quality vegetables to each meal.
We would have delicious fruits available at all times.
We would eat more fish and add a couple of meatless meals to our weekly meal plan.
I would talk to my mom about not bringing desserts over all if the time.

{More about Grandma in a future post. Oh, grandmas and their incessant need to spoil their grandchildren… which is totally fine but we do not need a new cheesecake and/or a dozen donuts in our house every day of the week and yes, this happened happens less frequently.}

We reasoned that by following those guidelines, we would have less room in our bellies for unhealthy foods.

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R made this salad with fresh tomatoes from my mom’s garden.

I began preparing more vegetables and cautiously served salads at dinner. Our kids weren’t anti-salad yes they were, it’s just that they hadn’t been exposed to different types of salads. While all of my meals were totally vegan, most of theirs weren’t. I splurged on delicious, ripe fruit and bought A LOT of it. So much that our counters looked like a fruit stand.

The verdict?

Thumbs up all around.

This isn’t to say we are totally perfect. Oh, far from it, but it is easier to bounce back to healthier habits than it used to be. We’re learning to get rid of the guilt of not eating better; by understanding that, it makes it so much easier to move on and try better the next time.

And me? Am I still vegan?

I did really well the first month, allowing 3-4 carefully selected meals that were not vegan. I ran a mile without stopping for the first time in months and this after only a week of cutting sugar and meat products! I am now up to 5 miles a day 3 times a week. I didn’t even notice the first few nights that I did not take my antidepressants. I took them every other day and finally stopped altogether.

And then the school year started. A colleague at my new school passed away suddenly. I had the opportunity to work with him during long term job in sixth grade. He was still young, only fifty-five when he passed, and he biked to and from work several times a week (roughly twenty miles one way?). I hadn’t had too much time to process it because just a couple of days before he was congratulating me on getting a contract and I was listening to his sarcastic comments under his breath during our staff meeting.

He passed away the day before our school year started. The entire campus, or rather the entire district, was devastated. District psychologists were brought in for the first few weeks to help his students and our staff cope with this sad and sudden departure. Flowers came from schools around the district.

Add to that my, ahem, monthly woman friend came to visit.

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

We have me. A woman trying to navigate through her new job. A woman who stopped running altogether for four days because there have been two violent crimes committed in our area. A woman who has been saying EFF IT to her diet because what else can she do?

Me who loves her job and loves learning something new about her profession all the time. Me who despite eating two fracking slices of three meat pizza still took the giant puppy on a five mile jog around the neighborhood. {He looks scary; that is, when I’m not tripping over him and when he’s not running away from chihuahuas.} Me who still can’t quite let go of her sugar addiction but knows that there will be more opportunities to make better choices tomorrow.

Yep, that’s me.

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Above: chocolate peanut butter tofu pie. Below: BBQ Vermicelli from Loving Hut. I could not believe how delicious this was!

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Delicious lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. Chef honored my “no cheese” request. I think you’ll like it too!

The Sac-Con Convention

It started in April. I didn’t think it was a big deal.

Boy, was I wrong.

The huge Comic Con in San Diego was curious but I thought it was too expensive, too crowded, and indeed the most hipster way possible, too mainstream. So when the local comic con came to my attention, we thought WHY NOT?

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I don’t know too much about Wizard World, only that this year was the first in Sacramento and next year should be even bigger.

We went on two separate days and the kids got really into to it. The oldest M cosplayed as the Eleventh Doctor and as Darryl from The Walking Dead. The youngest L dressed as her favorite My Little Pony and as Merida from the movie Brave. We all picked up a cute souvenir (note to self: make sure each child earns his/her own money to buy what they want) and while we did pick up one thing for each child, I imagine it will get more expensive as this convention is the first of three we are attending this year!

R came with us the first afternoon it opened and he will never do that again. While we all had a wonderful time people watching and finding unique posters, t- shirts, and collectibles that only die hard fandoms would appreciate, the crowds and noise were still too much for him.

The oldest and youngest came back with me the following day and they had a blast, especially since they changed their cosplay! They both got stopped by other convention goers so families, children, and other cosplayers could take their picture with them.

Recently we went to Sac Con. This convention was much smaller but the best parts of people watching, geek t-shirt acquiring, and socializing were the same.

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I picked up this awesome shirt

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And used my teaching powers for good as in, “Please sign this postcard for my class!”

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After hearing it was for a classroom, the Power Rangers Samurai did one better and all signed a poster for free! Wow! I will never stop talking about their kindness and commitment to children long after their show has ended!

Next month we are heading to Sac Anime which reminds me… We have to get our costumes ready!