Life with a Sleeve

On Monday, I had a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. I wish I could say that I feel great and that I have absolutely no regrets. But, OA only works when you are completely honest. And in all honesty, I’ve been wondering a lot about my decision this week. Not that there is anything I can do about it. What’s done is done, and this surgery cannot be reversed.

First, let my share my pre-surgery stats. My weight as of Thursday, May 19 was 425 pounds. Yes, I know that is a rather larger number, but I feel good about it. Why? Because on the day I started my liquid-only diet, my weight was 445. A twenty pound loss in 10 days—without feeling like I was depriving myself—is pretty awesome! And when I think that it was May 19 when I started on a food plan and I have not deviated from that plan—WOW! Sixteen days of abstinence feels pretty good!

My body measurements as of Saturday, May 21, 2011:

  • Neck 16.5 inches
  • Bicep 21.25 inches
  • Bust 60.25 inches
  • Waist 61.5 inches
  • Hips 73.5 inches
  • Thigh 34 inches

I was a little bummed that I didn’t get weighed at all while I was in the hospital. I have to see my PCP next week, and I will get a weight then. It is gonna drive me halfway insane not knowing my weight until then!

The surgery went well. I was a little scared at first. There are risks with any surgery. A part of me was concerned that I might not survive the surgery. But I told my husband on the way to Ann Arbor, “I am going to die if I don’t do something. At least if I go on the table, it will be because I was trying to make my life healthier.” I have purple marks on my belly where the doctors could have made incisions—six different places. But one of those places wasn’t needed. The incision areas are itchy now. They were just glued shut, no stitches or anything. As they heal and the glue dries more and more, it itches more and more. But I am being good and not picking at it or anything.

The problem happened Tuesday morning. A nurse came into my room to check my vital signs around 5:30 or so. My blood pressure was high (not a big surprise as it has run high for a while now—and is one of the reasons I wanted the surgery) so she returned with a syringe of something to help bring that down. Almost as soon as that medication went into my IV, I felt odd. I was hot all over, sweating when I’d been comfy before, and my heart was racing. I felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. I told my husband who told the nurse who told the team of doctors…. An EKG was ordered immediately and I was moved from the general surgical floor to a room in the cardiac unit where my heart could be monitored more closely. They told me my heart had gone into a fib—arterial fibrillation. The way I understand it, part of my heart was beating too fast and the other part was not beating fast enough. There was concern that possibly my sleeve was leaking (that was ruled out with the swallow study, which showed everything inside was just as it should be.) The doctors insisted it had nothing at all to do with the medication that I’d been given for my blood pressure. Still not sure if I believe that, but OK. I was told that this is a normal complication of surgery near the heart muscle, but that they were rather surprised to see it in a woman my age. Even though I’d been prepared to walk within hours of the end of my surgery, I was not allowed out of bed. The doctors wanted me to get into a normal heart rhythm before I moved much.

I was put on medications right away to bring my heart back into a normal sinus rhythm. It didn’t work as quickly as hoped. Actually, I think it was the third type of medication they tried that actually worked. Because it took so long to get it under control, I expected at least one extra day in the hospital.

Imagine my surprise when the surgical intern asked me Wednesday morning if I’d like to go home that afternoon! Once my heart rate was under control, I was able to get up and walk around without problems. After I passed the swallow study, I was put on clear liquids and I tolerated that rather well. The intern wanted to advance me to full liquids and said if my tummy tolerated that OK, I could leave Wednesday afternoon. It went well and I was home with my husband and sons by 5:00.

I did have one other problem while in the hospital. All of my medications need to be either crushed or in liquid form for 2 months, standard procedure for bariatric surgeries. They ordered a liquid version of my anti-depression medication. The problem is that it was flavored with peppermint, and I am allergic to peppermint. Knowing that most liquid medications have a nasty taste, I just took this in one swallow. So I didn’t notice the peppermint taste until after the entire dose was down. Not that it stayed down. The nurse stood beside me, rubbing my back as it all came back up. She felt so horrible because she knew I was allergic to peppermint, but had no idea the medication was flavored with it. The next morning, we tried opening the capsule and sprinkling it on my food. That has such a disgusting taste that I can barely get it down. So now I am waiting for my psychiatrist to call and let me know what to do. I’d love to go without the pills until my tummy heals enough to be able to tolerate taking pills, but I am not sure that is a very good idea. Maybe I can mix it with sugar-free chocolate pudding. Everything tastes better with chocolate, right?

Fresh-Baked Friendship

Five years after the death of her 10-year-old son, Julia Evarts still has not learned how to live her life.  Even the birth of her second child has not brought the joy back into her life.

Hannah de Brisay isn’t sure what is happening in her life.  She’s living alone in house that she was supposed to share with her husband—their own little romantic getaway.

Madeline Davis is widowed and starting over.  She’s filled one dream by open her own tea salon; if only the customers would come in.

At first, the only thing these three women have in common is where they live—the small town of Avalon, Illinois.  But when a loaf of Amish friendship bread—complete with a bag of starter and instructions on what to do with the starter—appears on Julia’s front doorstep, that all changes.  While discovering new recipes to create with the starter, a bond that runs deeper than mere friendship forms between these three women.  Together, they are able to grow and adjust to the new circumstances in their lives, showing a little love to a neighboring town along the way.

In her book Friendship Bread, Darien Gee has crafted a beautiful tale of hope and friendship.  Her fictional small town came to life in the pages of this novel, as did each of her characters.  I loved the way that she introduced some of the other residents of Avalon into the story, without taking away from the action of her main story.  The idea that it can take something as simple as fresh baked bread to build a friendship—or in some cases to restore relationships—is very appealing.  I walked away from the book wanting to make my own Amish friendship bread starter and begin passing it around to my friends and family.

Thanks to the recipes at the end of the book, I could very easily do that.  If only I could find a way to add just a few more hours into my day….

This was a fun read.  It is definitely a book to take along to the beach this summer.  I am sure you won’t regret it.

You can purchase Friendship Bread by Darien Gee here.

Darien Gee lives with her husband and three children in Hawaii. She is the bestselling author of three previous novels (Good Things, Sweet Life and Table Manners) written under the name Mia King. You can visit Darien Gee’s website at And check out the Friendship Bread Kitchen Facebook fan page.

Amish Friendship BreadDarien Gee

Review of ELIZABETH I by Margaret George

About the Book (from the author’s website)

New York Times best-selling Margaret George captures history’s most enthralling queen—as she confronts rivals to her throne and to her heart.

One of today’s premier historical novelists, Margaret George dazzles here as she tackles her most difficult subject yet: the legendary Elizabeth Tudor, queen of enigma—the Virgin Queen who had many suitors, the victor of the Armada who hated war; the gorgeously attired, jewel-bedecked woman who pinched pennies. England’s greatest monarch has baffled and intrigued the world for centuries. But what was she really like?

In this novel, her flame-haired, look-alike cousin, Lettice Knollys, thinks she knows all too well. Elizabeth’s rival for the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth’s throne, Lettice has been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood. This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire, one trying to protect her country, and throne, the other trying to regain power and position for her family. Their rivalry, and its ensuing drama, soon involves everyone close to Elizabeth, from the famed courtiers who enriched the crown to the legendary poets and playwrights who paid homage to it with their works. Intimate portraits of the personalities who made the Elizabethan age great—Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dudley, Raleigh, Drake—fill these pages, giving us an unforgettable glimpse of a queen who ruled as much from the heart as from the head, and considered herself married to her people.

This magnificent, stay-up-all-night page-turner is George’s finest and one that is sure to delight readers of Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, and Hilary Mantel.

My Thoughts on the Book

I love historical stories.  Whether the novel is set in a historical time or based on actual historical events, I am willing to give it a shot.  Even if the book is long, so long as it is well-written, I will read it.  In fact, when it comes to historical novels, I have often found that longer is better.  Being able to escape the 21st Century and become fully engrossed in an earlier time is about the best vacation I can imagine.  Well, the best I can afford right now, anyway!

When Margaret George’s Elizabeth I arraived, I was excited.  It’s a long book, nearly 700 pages, and it is definitely historical.  This book is based on the life of Elizabeth I, Queen of England, with the author’s interpretation of what could have happened thrown in.  I expected an exciting read.

But I didn’t get it.  It’s not that this novel was badly written or badly researched—Ms. George’s expertise on her subject was evident from the very first page.  It just wasn’t something that I enjoyed.  The sheer number of character overwhelmed me.  I am sure each was necessary, both to the story and to life of Queen Elizabeth.  It was just difficult for me to keep them straight.  And that made it hard for me to really care about them.


About the author

Margaret George is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra.  Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters.  We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is Elizabeth I.

Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training.

She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC.  Interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology.

You can visit Margaret George’s website at

Alison WeirElizabeth I of EnglandElizabethan eraLettice KnollysMargaret George

Review of PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Kathi Macias

            I recently read People of the Book, the latest book in the EXTREMEM DEVOTION series by author Kathi Macias.  As much as I enjoyed the book, I am having trouble reviewing it.  I just don’t know if I can get across how deeply this book affected me.

The book centers on three young women, on in America and two in the Saudi Kingdom.  High school student Sara lives in the Pacific Northwest with her parents and her younger brother Emir.  Her parents—of Saudi descent—are devout Christians who have passed that love of Christ on to their children, even though their faith has caused a rift with their own families.  When Emir begins to act in ways contrary to the beliefs he was raised with, Sara begins to question God’s role in their lives.  Farah and her cousin Nura are Muslim girls, living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  It is the month of Ramadan, and Farah’s only prayer is that Allah reveals himself to her in a real manner.  Nura is more confused.  Thanks to a computer in her bedroom, she has begun a relationship with Sara through an internet chat room.  Her decision to share her internet activities with Farah puts both girls in an awkward position that could ultimately cost them their lives.

This book, as the others I have read in this series, was well written and extremely well researched.  Macias makes her characters come alive, causing the reader to feel every emotion that the characters do.  As I read the book, I found myself moving from contentment, to fear, to anger, to despair, to hope—all within the span of just a few pages.

Farah and Nura—and even Sara, though to a lesser extent—risked their health and happiness by choosing to follow Christ (or Isa, as the two Muslim girls called Him.)  This made me think about my own life.  What have I ever had to sacrifice for my faith?  I remember in high school, not wanting to let school friends know that I actually enjoyed going to church with my family.  I was so afraid that would cost me friendships that I wasn’t sure I wanted to lose.  Kind of ironic now, as there are only two close friends who have maintained prominent roles in my adult life—and one of those friends is Jesus.  Remembering how I acted and seeing girls who had far more to lose react differently made me feel a little ashamed.

I’ve heard a little about the next book that Kathi Macias is writing.  I look forward to the chance to read that book as well.

Extreme Devotion SeriesKathi MacaisNew Hope publishersPacific NorthwestPeople of the BookRamadanSaudi Arabia

Hope After Affair

 After 18 years of marriage, the Molinskys have fallen into a bit of a rut.  Bobbi knows that things with her lawyer husband, Chuck, are not perfect.  Still, she is blindsided by an email that is forwarded to their home account while Chuck is away on business.  The email hinted at something she thought was completely impossible, but when she confronted Chuck with it, Bobbi learned that it was not only possible, it was true—her husband had engaged in an affair.

She felt like her life was over.  How could her husband do such a thing?  How could God allow him to do it?  And how in the world could they ever get past this?

All of these questions and more are both asked and answered in Contingency, the first novel in author Paula Wiseman’s new Covenant of Trust series.  (The second book, Indemnity, is available now and the third book in the series, Precedent, will be released later in 2011.)  I don’t know if Ms. Wiseman has ever been in a situation in any way similar to what she put her characters through or not.  I do know that she handled the story with grace and mercy that could have only come from God.

Both Bobbi and Chuck showed a wide range of very real emotions after the revelation of his affair.  By talking to each other and being faithful and honest in counseling they are able to reach deep inside themselves and find a level of faith in God that neither really knew they possessed.  This story offers hope for anyone–Christian or not–going through rough spots in their marriage.

I was wrapped up in this book and in the complex characters from the very first sentence.  This book—and the others in the series, I am sure—has earned a place on my “To be Read and Enjoyed Again” book shelf.

You can learn more about Paula Wiseman by visiting her website,



This I such an interesting word. It’s also a word that I seem to hear a lot about. People seem to be constantly talking about acceptance and tolerance. More specifically, I hear a lot about how we, as Christians, need to show more acceptance and tolerance toward others in this world. We are supposed to accept and tolerate people who believe differently than we do, people who choose to worship differently or not at all, and people who are living a lifestyle that is contrary to what is written in the Bible.

Funny how Christians are supposed to accept and tolerate every other lifestyle imaginable, but no one else feels the need to accept and tolerate Christianity.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about just what it means to accept a lifestyle that is different than mine. A LOT of time, especially in the last 13 years or so. It’s been about that long since my husband and I had dinner with his brother. John and I weren’t married yet, and we’ve had plenty of meals with his family since. But this particular dinner really stands out in my mind. It’s one I don’t think I am likely to ever forget. John had gone to the salad bar to refill his plate. His brother and I were alone at the table, sipping our sodas, when his brother looked at me and said, “So, do you think this is a good time to tell John that I am gay?” I didn’t know if it was a good time. I don’t know if there is ever really “a good time” to come out to your family or friends. But he was ready, and as hard as it was for me, I was there to help him do it. When John returned to the table, his brother said, “I need to talk to you about something.” John opened his mouth to make a joke—if you know John, you know that is not unusual for him! I told him, “You need to sit there, keep your mouth shut, and just listen to what he has to say.”

Which one of us took longer to process it, I really can’t say. It was a really odd few weeks. On the one hand, I kind of liked that he felt comfortable enough with us—with me—to tell us what was going on in his life. On the other hand, this went completely against everything I had ever believed. God intended for a man to leave his mother and father and create a life with his wife. He intended for love to be between a man and a woman, not a man and a man or a woman and a woman. I really struggled for a while with how to love him as a brother even though he was doing something that I felt—and that I honestly still feel—was a sin against God. Still, he was the brother of the man I love. I couldn’t really shut him out of my life without ruining my marriage. He stood up with us at our wedding, visited in the hospital when each of our sons was born, and has been there for us during some really tough times.

There are times when I still struggle. Even though his partner is a wonderful, generous man, I can’t help at times wishing he was a she. They have been together for about 4 or 5 years now, and I know that this man makes my brother-in-law happy. And I don’t want to deny him that happiness. But I am still so confused sometimes. It’s hard sometimes, especially when my sons ask questions about their relationship, to know how to handle it. Is it really OK to accept the life that they are living?

Romans 3:23 has helped me to understand this a little bit. The New Living Translation reads, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” To me, accepting a different lifestyle means accepting this verse. We all fall short of God’s glory. Gay men, lesbian women, Muslims, atheists, Christians…. None of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all sinned. But Christ still loves us. In fact, a little later on in Romans, Paul writes, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us when we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT.) Even knowing about all the sin, all the warped things man would to be undeserving of His love and mercy, God still sent his only son to die a horrible death to erase that sin. He not only accepted us all, He forgave us.

Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. It means love. It means saying, “I don’t agree with how you live your life, but I love you enough to not let that come between us.”

While I still don’t agree with how my brother-in-law is living and I still don’t always know how to explain his choices to my children, I still love him. I still pray for him and do my best to show him God’s love in all I do.

Pre-Surgery Picture

Well, I said I would do this.  I said I would share pictures of me as I go along my weight loss journey.  So, here is a picture!

This was taken on May 8, 2011–Mother’s Day.  I put this dress on just for the picture.  It’s a beautiful dress.  Not that I really know where I will wear it to.  I’d like to wear it to my husband’s company Christmas party this year, though I am thinking that I will be too small for it by then.  Not a problem here!

Oh!  And before I forget, I want to let you know that I plan to really be honest about my weight loss journey.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that I plan to share my weight and measurements (biceps, thighs, waist, hips, and bust) as I go along.  On Tuesday, I will see the surgeon and will get my “official” pre-op weight.  Hopefully I will be able to have my measurements posted soon as well.   I want to post all of that information again the night before surgery (with another picture, of course!) and then on the 23rd of each month after that.  That will help us all to actually see the changes in my appearance.

ABC’s of Life

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to do this. I know that I want to do a series of ABC posts, a series where each post will be about a topic that starts with A, B, C, D…and on through the alphabet. The only “problem” is that there are so many ways I could go with this. I could use the letters to write about things that are important to me. I could use them to write up 26 little known facts about me. I could use them for posts about places I would like to visit. There are just so many things I could do. It’s been hard to come up with a way to focus these posts. That’s why I didn’t start right away, the way I planned to.

    But I think I have finally come up with a way to do this. And the plan I have will be beneficial to me and to my family. Hopefully my readers will get a little wisdom from it, too.

    I’ve decided that I will write about 26 different attributes or attitudes that I would like to see develop in my children. Throughout the next 26 days, I will write about a different character trait and what the Bible has to say about it. Please comment on anything you read that you agree with or don’t agree with. I don’t claim to be perfect, and I don’t think that I know everything. I’d like to learn from you as much as I want my children to learn from me.

The Date is Set!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to write for today.  It’s time to start my ABC blogs and I have an idea of how I want to do those.  But when I got ready to sit down and write my first blog, the phone rang.  And that little phone call changed my plans!

Instead of starting my ABC blog, I am writing about something else–my surgery.  More specifically, I am excited to announce that a date has been set for my bariatric surgery.  I go in on May 23 for a gastric sleeve.  I cannot tell you how excited I am about this!

May 23 is just two weeks away!  After all this time of waiting and planning, it’s hard to believe I am just two weeks away from surgery.  One of my cousins referred to it as “the first day of the rest of your life.”  In so many ways, it feels like I am starting a whole new life.  So many things are going to be different.  But that is OK.  I mean, the way things have been is not really wonderful, not for my health.  This will be the first step toward a much healthier me.

It does mean I have a busy week coming up.  I have appointments on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week.  I have to meet with the actual surgeon who will perform my surgery (Dr. Finks, who I have seen in passing but not actually met yet), go to a nutrition class, and then meet with the anesthesiologist.  Oh yeah, and I need a pre-op physical.  Not really looking forward to that, but it’s part of the surgical process.   I have been ready for a surgery date since March.  No way am I going to let a little physical get in the way!

Pictures will be coming soon–I promise!!  My plan is to post a picture of me along with my weight and my measurements before surgery, the day of surgery, and every month on the anniversary of my surgery.  That way, we can all see together how my body is changing as I eat less, eat healthy, and exercise more!

Song Challenge, Day Thirty

Wow. I can hardly believe it. We have arrived at the end of this 30 day journey. I’ve had fun choosing songs and writing up why they mean so much to me. I hope you have enjoyed it as well.

The topic for today is “Your favorite song at this time last year.”

This one is easy for me, too. I am going to go right back to Day One. My favorite song for over a year has been “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless. It’s very comforting to think about what can happen in my life if I just hold on the faith I have in Christ Jesus.

Here is my favorite song. Enjoy.