The face in the picture.

I was updating the photos of my journey tonight, and as I scrolled through the edit page I was actually taken aback by the face in the first picture.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was in Florida celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. I had just told my siblings and my parents that I was going to have weight loss surgery. I knew then, that I was going to make major changes in my life. I was looking forward to living. I was excited about the prospects. I know this all to be true. Yet… I see that face and there is no trace of anything but pain.

Once again, I’m going to comment on the role that the camera plays in this journey. It not only helps me to show you where I have come from, but it helps me to see where I was. It helps me to look back, and acknowledge that maybe I wasn’t as “okay” with being fat, as I thought I was. Maybe I wasn’t as “content” as I told myself I was.

I’m sad for the woman in that picture, but I don’t know if its because I know she was miserable then, or if I am judging her now. Perhaps its a little of both. Admittedly, it is NOT easy to see myself that way. As much as people show their before and after photos off, there is very little pride that comes with the before photo. Its painful to embrace. I was that person. That person IS who I am now.  Its hard. Really it is. That doesn’t go away. Regardless of how much weight you lose, you will always have been obese. You will always have been a statistic of the disease. And obesity is a disease. Its physical as well as mental. Its not pretty. It doesn’t go away.

So, thats my truth for tonight. The camera plays a role. Its important. The reminders are  sometimes difficult to reflect upon. The hurts can be covered up with clothes and new photos… but they are always going to be there. You can’t escape where you came from. You don’t get to out run your past.

http://vsgmom.com/pictures-of-my-journey/  it is NOT always pretty

It’s a Conundrum.

co·nun·drum/kəˈnəndrəm/

Noun:
  1. A confusing and difficult problem or question.
  2. A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.

I feel like I keep dancing around this whole body change/dysmorphia/weight challenge. But I guess that’s what weight loss surgery/rapid weight loss is all about. Right?

So, this week I went back to that place that sends me into a cold sweat. I went to the fitting room. I knew that my size 12’s were loose and baggy, especially where my ass was. If your jeans don’t fit JUST right, you risk having noassatall or a massive wedge. Neither is attractive, but I guess noassatall is more comfortable.

So I fought the urge to run, the urge to flee and I tried on the size 10’s. Truth be told, I carried a number of 12’s in with me also… because well… maybe I wouldn’t fit in the 10’s and maybe a different cut of 12’s would be better. Hey, this is what it is. Its the way MY brain works. The 12’s were ALL too big, regardless of cut. The 10’s all fit, although one cut (the boyfriend cut) was NOT bariatric/loose skin friendly. Special thanks to those jeans for letting me know that I also have loose skin on my ass cheeks. Thanks for that!

So here I am wondering out loud… WHERE does one set their goals? REALLY? A BMI chart doesn’t tell you what size jeans you should be wearing. A tag in your jeans doesn’t tell you what weight you should be. So, what happens when your brain tells you that a size ten should LOOK 20lbs LOWER on the scale than it actually does? If I were to get to where the blasted BMI calculator tells me I *could/should/wish-to* be then what would the tag of my jeans read? 4? 2? 0? SERIOUSLY? Its ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean honestly… am I REALLY wasting my time wondering about this crap? BUT the answer is

I AM damn it! I fully ADMIT that a year ago, I would have been giddy to get my fat ass into a size 16, let alone a 14… 12 and a 10 was UNIMAGINABLE! SERIOUSLY! I KNOW! A ten! BUT.. BUT BUT BUTT….. I don’t feel like I LOOK like a TEN… most of the time anyway. And if you took away the camera and the mirror and simply gave me the scale… NO WAY IN HELL would the number on the scale translate into a size ten to me. NOPE, nay never!

So, while I don’t see myself as I ten USUALLY, I do take a LOT of pictures and there is a reason for that! When I was fat, I looked in the mirror and didn’t see myself as obese and as miserable as the camera saw me. I would get up, get dressed, check myself out in the mirror and say “Self, you look pretty damn cute for a big chick”. Then a week or two later I would see a photo of myself from that day and  much to my horror… there would be no trace of the cute big chick, simply frumpy cranky momma. AND NOW… well NOW… I look in the mirror and I don’t SEE thin, not fat, normal. I SEE loose skin, big girl. I don’t necessarily see obese. But I do see big. SO, I take pictures, because again… the photographs see more than what the mirror shows. The camera captures what the scale doesn’t give me, what the mirror hides, what the brain denies. The camera gives it to me straight. Be it tired, sloppy, or NOT FAT! The camera gives it to me for real. So yes folks, there are lots of pictures and there will be lots more. If I take a picture and I see fat, despite what the scale or the jeans say… the photos will keep me honest with myself.

The question, however, still remains. WHAT DETERMINES the beginning of maintenance and the end of loss? The number on the scale? The number on the jeans? The stupid freaking BMI chart? The photograph? Will there ever be a point where I will be satisfied? Will I ever it ever be ENOUGH? I just got into a size 10 and already I’m thinking about a size 8. HELLO BRAIN FUCKED! My constant friend. SIGH.

Body Morphing, its just a strange thing

Here I am 13 months post vertical sleeve gastrectomy. The honeymoon phase is waning. The need to make a conscious effort is apparent. A few days of bad choices equals a few numbers increased on the bitch of a scale. Damn that scale.

So, anyway, its a funny thing, the way a bariatric body changes. We have a body type. Those of you who are bariatric know what I mean. We morph in stages. Top first, melt melt melt. WHOA.. look at those cheek bones just days/weeks/months out. Then the neck, collar bones. Around 8 months out my waist changed, then I had to really work to get my legs to slim down… they were just hanging on to weight like potato sacks. Now here I am, slimming down again, and my waist is slimmer, my legs are slimmer and suddenly my face and neck and collar bones are slimming again.

There is amusement in this. I admit to being fascinated by the bari-body. The pre-pastics bari-body. We are identifiable. While we are proud of our weight loss, the way our bodies morph is often a bone of contention with many of us. The loose skin, the areas in which it hangs, the way the excess settles in areas such as our hips or lower belly, thigs, batwings, ankles, toes… what ever. Ahh thank the universe for the joys of the digital camera, the ability to take a photo and delete a photo, edit a photo and play with a photo. Thank the universe for the ability to connect with other body morphing freaks like me, who totally get it when I pinch the flap of skin on my hip and ask “What in the hell is THIS? What do I do with THIS?” and for those who laugh at me when I joke that “If a hurricane were to hit right now, at least we could all deploy our loose skin and parachute to safety” Its our super power. Flexi skin FTW!

Next time I  post a picture of myself and you wonder why I often post face pics, understand that the answer is this…… There is NO loose skin in my face, my neck or my shoulders! It is easily photograph-able with out needing to suck, push, roll or hide anything. When there are full body shots, I assure you that they are carefully selected, there are slimpressions worn to pull in the excess hangage, and they are shared painstakingly.

Stages of morphingI was recently asked if my brain is finally catching up to my body. I had to think about this for a day or two. I suppose it is. When trying on clothes I still grab one or two sizes too large. I still have anxiety trying on smaller sizes. Mind you, there is VICTORY in getting my ass into a size 12  and more so in the need to go try on a size 10… but there is also anxiety that comes along with going to grab those 10’s and carry them into the fitting room. But yes, my brain is there. I know I need the smaller size. I DO see it. I DO like it. I’m totally NOT bitching about it! YEEHAW to cute jeans! WOOHOO to skinny jeans! And YIPPY to the fact that this fall I will get myself a pair of boots because my calfs are thin enough to wear them! SO there! LOL

I digress, the point is… we are constantly in a stage of morphing. I don’t know that it matters how far out we are either. We just change shape every few months, bounce back to a shape, then revisit another shape. We are shape shifters, body morphers… we have super powers so watch out!

Perception, the way you’ve changed

Those of us who have had bariatric surgery have read many a story about the post op patient who has lost their weight, lost their mind, and found their mid life crisis. We have also heard many a story of those who have been there, done that, come back, found level ground and who live a happy sane life.

From MY personal perspective, there is a whole lot of unearthing of crap when you go from this:

to this:

Outwardly, it is easy to look at an image, or a facebook page, or a blog and think to yourself ‘Wow, she must be so happy!’ or proud or whatever. And to be clear, as for the weight loss, I AM! I am thrilled! Lets not be vague about that! Not for one second! I am happy and proud and giddy about the fact that I am no longer swallowed up by layers of my own fat.

However, those layers of fat gave me shelter. A reason to hide from the world. In my mind, I didn’t want to be exposed to judgment or hurt, harsh words, looks, etc. I didn’t want to feel the let down that I had felt in the past when I had let people in. And so my fat protected me. It was my shelter.

I recognized that my unsocial behaviors were neither who I use to be or healthy. I realized that my unsocial behaviors impacted my children. And just as my tendencies to feed my fears with food were slowly killing me mentally and physically, so was this hermit lifestyle. I was simply a fragment of the person I use to be. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Sadly, those behaviors quickly defined who I was. The perception was that I was this person who didn’t have an outside life. I was the person who threw herself into her children and her husband, her family and nothing more. This perception is not incorrect, but this is not who I was. The vibrant girl I was before, was lost and the memory of her was lost as well. But she was still there, inside of me.

I decided to make these changes. I knew that with the change that weight loss surgery offered, there would be social changes too. I knew the statistics, I knew the crisis that hit damn near every one of us. I read and reread and thought I was prepared. Really, I thought I could handle it. I did.

Here I am 13 months post WLS. I have a whirlwind around me with fragments of two worlds spinning around. I am grabbing what I can, and trying to piece together, redefine rescue, the person I know I am!

I don’t have my shelter of fat to protect me. My guard is down. There is a ton of hurt, while I dig through this rubble. Accusations of “I don’t even know who you are anymore” and I understand that, because for 9 years I didn’t know who I was anymore either. I had to learn to trust people, and in doing that, I had to accept that sometimes people let you down, and sometimes people hurt you. And I fight myself, to not crawl back into that hole. I fight, and I reach, and I struggle. Because I KNOW who I am… or at least I know who I am not! I am NOT that person who sat by herself in sorrow for 9 years. I am NOT that person who guarded her wounds like badges of honor! I am NOT that person! That person was unhealthy and not somebody anybody should ever strive to be! EVER.

I am trying to grow from the damages I have caused myself over the past decade. I am trying to plant my feet firmly in the aftermath of the storm that I created in my own life. And I accept that people who knew me when I was fatter and more sullen are confused as to the changes they are seeing. I understand that this may seem sudden, awkward, manic, or out of the blue. I get where it will be perceived as a side effect of rapid weight loss, but I assure you, this is simply one of the steps I have to take, for myself, in addition to the weight loss. This is part of my process, and I hope you all make it through this with me.

“Nobody loves me, nobody cares,
Nobody picks me peaches and pears.
Nobody offers me candy and Cokes,
Nobody listens and laughs at me jokes.
Nobody helps when I get into a fight,
Nobody does all my homework at night.
Nobody misses me,
Nobody cries,
Nobody thinks I’m a wonderful guy.
So, if you ask me who’s my best friend, in a whiz,
I’ll stand up and tell you NOBODY is!
But yesterday night I got quite a scare
I woke up and Nobody just WASN’T there!
I called out and reached for Nobody’s hand,
In the darkness where Nobody usually stands,
Then I poked through the house, in each cranny and nook,
But I found SOMEBODY each place that I looked.
I seached till I’m tired, and now with the dawn,
There’s no doubt about it-
NOBODY’S GONE!!”
Shel Silverstein

Battling obesity doesn’t end with WLS

I think it needs to be said that while WLS helps us to lose weight quickly, keeping it off and maintaining the right lifestyle is a constant battle.
Learning to cope properly is not easy, and for me, food is the easiest way to squash my emotions. The portions are smaller, but eating around my sleeve is possible. Owning up to my behavior by being accountable to my support system helps me to stay on track.
The one thing that sort of surprises me the most at 1 year post op is this… Struggling to lose 30lbs is the same as struggling to lose 170lbs. The struggle is no different. The end is in sight, it’s more tangible now, but… The fight is the same!

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Had somebody tried to tell me that at 300+ lbs I would have smacked them. I use to roll my eyes at my “normal” size friends, who claimed they needed to lose another 20lbs or so. Now, I understand. It’s not easy to lose weight at any size.
Be aware, those of you going into this soon, you will battle obesity for the rest of your life. Long after you fall out of the obese category, it will follow you around. It scars your body and your soul. It is a part of you and you shouldn’t forget it. If you ignore it, you could easily fall victim again.

I went home part II

So, I headed off to Long Island and arrived at my friend Christina’s home by late morning.
Christina is my best friend, my soul sister. We have a bond like none other in my life. Christina and her husband Huge are incredible friends and their children are adored by me, as if they were my own. I know each one’s personality as well as I know my own kid’s personalities. Best yet is that their kids and my kids fall with in years, months, weeks of each other age wise. They fit like a puzzle, never a missing link.

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Walking into Chris & Hugh’s yard was like coming home in and of itself. Filled with ghosts of babies crawling, boys peeing in the yard, potty training, barbecues, beer, good times.

I stole away a bit of time here and there. I drove by my family home, down the block I played on, around the block to check out the park, the Matthew’s house and wondered if the yards were still connected like they were when we were kids. I never had to walk around the block. Loving neighbors had a gate between yards, to keep us lil people safe & in view.

We spent time with my brother Brian, my nephew John, and sister in law Tracy. Sometimes you take for granted that family is family & they will always be there. We have not seen nearly enough of them over the years, and I didn’t know how much I
Missed them till I was there.
My kids were water rats, I wore a bathing suit and was water logged myself. I soaked up the fact that Brian is a one man show who can entertain 7 children with out trying. I also can’t thank him enough for having my clan and Christina’s clan, so I was able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

I drove through Lindenhurst and Wellwoid ave broke my heart. Where is Carvel? The flower Shop? How is Friendly’s a friggin 7-11? Where is my town? My tween years were spent there. My first job, first crush, and the sense if freedom I had by merely being permitted to walk there to meet up with friends.
Amazingly, a trip to NY did not awaken my sense of food nostalgia. Well, other than Linzer Tarts. I really didn’t do the food tours that most former NYers do when they go home. No bagels for me (but for the kids) Brian got them pizza too. No deli heros, no Italian pastries, I even avoided the Italian butcher. No Chinese, no Zorns, no zeppolis.
Crazy right? But, this is a non scale victory. Before surgery I would have binged for a week straight.
The ghosts of my childhood, my teens, my early parenting years are all around Long Island. I was homesick for this place that will always be my home.
Packing up my babies and heading back to Georgia was physically painful. My heart broke. I miss my people. Christina and I belong close by. It’s a strong connection and it’s resilient, but 900 miles may as well be different continents. I miss my brother, my family. I even got to see my cousin Jamie and her beautiful boy Hudson. Jamie and I were polar opposite as kids. She out going and independent, me a momma’s girl. Now, we’re two strong headed, crazy momma’s ourselves & my kids are thrilled to know that there are more cousins to meet.
Next year we’ll tackle this trip earlier. We will make time for the beach, for a meeting with Scheiner Family, & hopefully the hubby will come along to spend some man time with Hugh & Brian.

My NY peeps, I love you. I’m sorry if I missed you. I was ghost hunting, finding pieces of myself in memories long gone.

Embracing the Taboo.. BBGC

Two days ago I received a package in the mail. I wasn’t expecting anything, however, my memory is not the sharpest these days. I opened it up and let out a very loud “OH YAY!” which captured the attention of the whole family. Momma likes packages. Momma especially likes packages that she has forgotten she would be receiving, and when that package contains my latest Bariatric Bad Girls Club tee shirt, momma is down right gleeful!

My proud display of my “badness” got me thinking about my friends and a recent interaction I had with my neurologist.

I went to the neuro because of the migraines and the clumsiness. The neuro suggested ordered that I quit caffeine. My jaw may have hit the floor. There was a very distinct four year old type tantrum that followed. “No Caffeine? What? No REALLY? You’re trying to kill me? Why do you hate me?“. The neuro sat looking at me with a big ass grin on his face, asked if I was done yet and I said NO! “Look, this is not funny. Did my husband put you up to this? Am I being punked? DO YOU REALIZE THAT COFFEE IS MY TRANSFER ADDICTION?!?!!!!”

Now it was time for the neurologist’s jaw to hit the floor. Wide eyed he looked at me and said, quite seriously “You are the FIRST bariatric patient that I have had, that admits there are transfer addictions. While they know it, admitting it openly is very taboo. They do not like the suggestion that food could be an addiction and that its not all genetics that lands them in the obese category”

I explained that my obesity was certainly not genetic, and while before surgery you would have found me very much anti food is an addiction, I am now of the mind set that the habit is the addiction. When I am unhappy, angry, sad, feeling anxious I want to shove something down my throat. I want my taste buds to send happy little bits of dopamine to my brain to push the ugly out and give me a moment of bliss not so ugly. After my surgery, shoving food in my face would give me a moment of “not so ugly” right before the pain from pushing too much food in gave me a “God please don’t let me die”. So, to replace the motion of eating, I began the motion drinking. My hands are occupied with a nice, heavy, warm mug. My mouth is filled with tasty warm goodness. It hits my belly and it doesn’t hurt. Its warm and comforting. Then… the dopamine kicks in with a little help from the caffeine. WIN WIN… right?

I explained to my neurologist that some of the very best people I have met in my life are bariatric patients that do not play a role in the stepford bariatric community. We embrace the taboo. Shit happens. Its not all rainbows and unicorns. The faster you accept that your behaviors landed your ass on an operating table the quicker you will find your way to support, knowledge and answers to some of your issues. Coping isn’t always pretty, but it doesn’t have to be judgmental either. Any “life coach” who suggests that they can guide your through your weight loss journey with grace is full of crap. There are issues that follow this procedure. You are learning to live again, new, differently and change hurts! Change gets resistance from us. Our habits, our brains demand keeping to routine. Retraining your brain is not easy, it is not pretty and it is certainly not something that will ever be graceful.

If there was grace in finding your way through life changing events, reality TV would not be successful.

So, back to the Bariatric Bad Girls Club. Support with a solid dose of reality. We celebrate victories, we do not judge when you stumble, we admit our failures, and find support in picking ourselves up. We are not bad at all. We are real. And because the bariatric community is so filled with “TABOO” our reality makes us appear to be “bad”. We take our vitamins, we eat properly, we admit that indulgences happen and are OKAY (from time to time, not every day)! We are not robots, we do not hide the truth, we do not try to sell you products, we openly discuss medical issues that may be a result of our surgery. We discuss the frustrations. We tell newbies that you will lose weight, you will gain loose skin, you will not be a bikini model and most of all surgery doesn’t suddenly fix the universe. Some people take offense to that view. Some people prefer a less in your face approach to support, and thats okay too. Find it. But know this. The BBGC is a strong community. We embrace Taboo, we speak truth, we offer support, we admit to cross addictions, we do not claim to be perfect or graceful. We do kick ass! We are not bad because we eat poorly, or drink with straws (many of us do drink with straws, we have not died), we are bad because our balls to the wall approach on honesty has been tisk tisked by many.

I love my BBGC tee shirt. I love my BBGC support, and I am honored to call so many of those men and women close personal friends. With in that group of “bad” I have found all kinds of beautiful and I have found so many hands willing to reach out and help me through some of the most ungraceful moments of my post op life.

Bari-Family

Once upon a time, a sort of big guy dated a sort of chubby girl, they got married, had babies and got obese together. The now obese wife decided that life was meant for living, and decided to have bariatric surgery to help her reach her goals of living.

A few months later, the obese wife, became a smaller version of her former self, and resembled her younger self more and more. The obese husband struggled with his emotions, trying to deal with the changes that were happening before his very eyes.

Eventually the obese husband discussed the possibilities of bariatric surgery for himself, first with his doctor then with his wife. While apprehensive to under go any form of surgery, he realized that at the rate he was going, he wouldn’t see his children graduate high school. Having lost his own father, much earlier than he should have, he decided to go forward with his plan to have weight loss surgery.

Today the obese husband has been under doctor’s care for  5 months. He went for all of his pre surgical testing, his surgeon consult and his nutritionist appointment. Today, it all became real for him, as he left the doctor’s office and the doctor said “next time I see you will be on the day of your surgery”

One month from now, he will hand in the last of his paper work and it will be submitted to the insurance company. With in the next few months we will be a bariatric family. Hopefully the changes we make in our lives now, will keep our children from struggling with obesity and poor eating habits and behaviors.

Up to this point, I was not sure he would go forward with this. In the past he has lost weight on his own.

When Kailey was born, the man was skinny!

As I have written previously, having a child with medical issues certainly contributed to both of our stress eating tendencies. It is very easy to fill the “helpless” feelings with food. I am hopeful that today marks the beginning of the changes my husband needs to live a happy life.

We're on our way... together.

 

My main food groups

Time to fess up. My doctor is less than pleased with my eating habits. I’m sort of in a rut. While I enjoy food, especially creating it, the average daily routine is the same.

Dannon plain Greek Yogurt. 8oz is 120 calories and 22g of protein. THIS is my dream food. Easily digestible, yummy, high protein low calories. Hello, I live on this stuff!

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SPLENDA: dear splenda, I love you. With out you my daily eating would be miserable. I love how you sweeten my yogurt, my coffee and my fruit.

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If you’re thinking of yelling me all the ways splenda will kill me, save it. It has saved me! It’s even in my water via mio drops!

Fruit: I get in far more than the daily recommendations of fruit. Berries. Love them! Add them to my yogurt, with splenda, this is bliss!

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Coffee: yes, please, all day long! I love my keurig. Even when it acts up. I’d be lost with out my perfect cup… Many times a day.

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I’m the coffee/protein category is the shining star!!! CLICK! Yes! Please. Thank you! I love Click. It is a protein shake that is not a chore to choke down, but a pleasure to start your day off. Love my Click. I do, I do!

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I’m struggling with this food rut. I didn’t like being told I needed to focus more on “real food”. I am to try to eat this “real food” more than once a day. The above mentioned things do not count. Why? Because my eating habits are disordered.

I went from one extreme to the next I suppose. Although, the foods I’m stuck on are nutrient rich, the fact that it is all I consume is a red flag.

“dense protein” is the goal. More than once a day. Yesterday I had edamame salad, today some almonds and a bit of tuna.

I’m not a fan of being told to change. But I keep this blog to document it all, regardless of how silly, lame or concerning things are. So… There’s that.

Migraines… they’re what I’ve got.

After a week of seriously screwy brain pain, my husband urged me to get my ass into the doctor. Knowing that I have seen her about headaches in the past, and her suggesting I see a neurologist…. I made an appointment with a neuro first, then went to see her.

“Tell me about your symptoms….” she said. I rattled off… dizziness, light sensitivity, nausea, insane head pain, worse when I bend down. Did I mention that I’m on day six of this? Oh, yeah, and uh.. I passed out in the shower once and I keep falling because my balance sucks. When the pain lets up and is more tolerable, there is ridiculous ringing in my ears, and on occasion, when I walk outside, I get spots in my vision.

Now, I admit, when writing it all out and admitting it out loud… I was an idiot to not go to the doctor before. My doctor, God love her for dealing with my entire family as often as she does, was unamused at best.

I am scheduled for an MRI next week. The week after I see the neurologist. My doctor gave me a beautiful gift in the form of a prescription for Imitrex and I took it at bed last night. I was afraid to sit upright this morning, for fear that the heavy head sensation would greet me as it has every morning for the past week, but alas, I sat up and my head didn’t feel like a bowling ball encased in skull. HOORAY!

 

 

This past week I have been a slug. I mean, really, beyond doing the hike on Saturday with the hubby and Ruby, which was pretty low key, low impact, slow moving…. I have NOT done a whole lot of moving. I have been quite content hanging low at home. A few days I didn’t get out of my PJ’s.  My husband made remarks about “who is that woman? Is my old wife back? My new wife wouldn’t be caught dead with PJ’s on and no make up. Are you OKAY?” Uh, yeah… not so okay, but still not excuse enough to slip back to old ways.

  I see how easy it is to fall back into habits. Its much easier to get out of bed and transplant myself from bed to sofa. Head in a pillow, letting the kids run a muck. Its easy to ignore the things that need to be done around here, especially when I know my husband will pick up my slack with out saying a word. Its easy to say “it’s too hot outside to go out” and its too easy to say “my head is killing me and so I won’t move because I don’t feel like it.” Even when the headache was a dull roar with ringing ears, I just laid around. BLAHH!

So today I hold myself accountable for the past week of excuses, and now that the pain in the brain is gone I have NO excuses. I’m going to get the kids out and pick some blackberries, then I’m going to catch up on housework. When the man comes home, I will see where the exercise will happen, dependent upon time, heat index, and weather I will either be down by the lake or up on the elliptical. Today the excuses end.