Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Let's get surgical, surgical

How much boob would a boob doc dock if a boob doc could dock boobs?

Good news! My insurance company has approved the reduction surgery as long as I get it done within 6 months. I'm surprised they came back with an answer so quickly. I expected to hear in May that it had been rejected and then go through the process of appealing. Not so. I must look worse than I thought!

Now I have to decide when (or if) I'm going to do this. First I need to figure out what it will cost me out of pocket, then I need to figure out how much more money to pump into fixing up my house and yard this year. Should I spend $1,000 on new topsoil around the foundation? Probably. Can I afford it if I'm throwing a couple grand into a boob job? Maybe not. What about landscaping, or painting and hanging drywall? Too bad all of my options for cheap labor are in another timezone.

I also have to think about whether or not I'll have a job in six months. My company is being sold and there is a very strong chance that my department will be laid off. Should I save the surgery money for living expenses, or will having the surgery improve my confidence and give me an edge in the job hunt? Should I throw all the money into fixing up the house in case I can't afford the payments and have to sell it, or would that be a wasted effort?

Another consideration is whether or not I can lose weight first. So far, the answer is "not" but I'm hoping my new endocrinologist can help figure out my hormones. He has a few dietitians on staff. My experience with dietitians hasn't been very positive before but none of them were working alongside a hormone specialist either. I did a 2 hour glucose tolerance test Monday morning and I'm waiting for the results. I will probably go in for another consultation next week. I guess I can put off the surgery decision until after I hear what he has to say.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Work it, own it

One of the things I hate about home ownership is being in charge of maintenance. Like everything else in my house the yard needs a lot of attention. The former owners/tenants had an above-ground pool that left a bare patch in the backyard. It also left a ditch where the water flowed out when they emptied it. I naively thought that if I let the grass grow long enough to go to seed it would naturally fill in the bare spots. I was wrong. The bare patch filled in with weeds and the weeds began spreading.

I've been working on this problem for the last few weekends. I started by walking up and down the length of my yard spraying every dandelion and patch of clover with Weed B Gon. My back was killing me and I think I inhaled some of it (yuck). No fun. The very next morning we had a load of rain that washed everything clean. Even though the product claims to be rain-proof the dandelions survived.

I talked to a lawn and garden pro at Home Depot last weekend. He recommended Scotts Turf Builder. He said it would work better in the rain than a spray does. He also said it would be safe to spread new grass seed after a few days. I put it out on Monday. I haven't seen any results yet. Maybe it takes a while?

Yesterday morning I mowed the lawn and raked the weedy patches to get it ready for seed. I filled in the ditch with 80 pounds of topsoil. I used a hand-held spreader to seed the area, then I watered it down. Funny that three hours of intense work can be summarized in three sentences. I really hope the grass takes hold and the weeds start retreating. Here's a shot taken from my deck:

I'm also wondering what to do about this marshy patch on the edge of my property. I think my neighbor curses me every time he has to mow around it.

While I'm at it, I need to deal with the obvious erosion around my terraced flower beds.

By the way, I love the jonquils. They remind me of my sister. I wish I'd thought to take a picture when they were all in bloom.

Honestly, if I had known how much time and expense would go into fixing up my yard I might have considered getting a condo or townhouse. I didn't want to spend the extra money. Maybe next time I'll change my tune.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Uh oh, they found me

This post will probably depress a few people - more than usual. I got a birthday card in the mail today from a church I haven't attended since college. A Mickey Mouse birthday card (what am I, 10?) tactfully addressed to "Ms (my name here)" and sent without a return address so it couldn't be returned to the sender. Those bitches.

I've been keeping a low profile since college but I'm still contacted now and then by the zealots. The first time was six years ago when my parents called church headquarters to have my records transferred. My boss's husband was in charge of fellowshipping and he immediately confronted me about why I wasn't coming to church. The next two months were really awkward. They kept inviting me home for dinner with their family. They stopped after I refused to say a prayer over the food. A few weeks later I was fired.

I found another job and moved to a secure apartment building. Soon after I got a phone call from a pair of missionaries who wanted me to buzz them into the building. I declined and called my parents. They had transferred my records again. I told them if it ever happened again I would have my records removed. They got the message.

The next 3-4 years were quiet. Then I replied to an email from the alumni association at (religious affiliate university). I gave them my current address. I have former roommates and acquaintances that I wouldn't mind getting back in touch with. That was a mistake. Since October I've been visited three times by missionaries. The first time I answered the door and politely told them not to bother me and repeated my threat to remove my church records if they kept it up. The 2nd and 3rd time I turned on the porch light, saw who they were, and turned it off again without answering.

Now I get a birthday card. It's an irritating reminder that they're still out there. Lurking. Waiting for me to return to their righteous fold - where I will be ignored and judged and made to feel inferior because I am different. So I'm wondering if it's time to follow through on my threat. Do I feel strongly enough about this to leave the church completely?

My biggest fear is that I'll lose my family. I think they're all holding out hope that I'll come back to church. Something this drastic might make them worry about my bad influence rubbing off on them. They'll see me differently even though nothing about me will have changed. I have cousins that I barely know and I want to know better. That can never happen if I leave the church. Of course, it's not likely to happen anyway while they're in (religion central) and I'm in Kansas, but there's still a chance.

I have to think about this a lot more.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I don't mean to brag

I'm all about maximum results from minimal effort and I love it when I find a shortcut at work. Almost everything I know about Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access I learned by watching someone else or through trial and error. I never had training on any of those programs but I'm still expected to use them daily. When I get stuck I search the Help menu for a solution, which is harder than it sounds because you have to know the question in order to find the answer.

While I consider myself to be far from expert with any of these programs, I have learned enough to become a sort of go-to person in the department. Especially when it comes to Excel, for some reason. I spend a lot of time analyzing data - which is fitting, I suppose, since my title is "Business Analyst". Who knew 7 years ago when I was studying Human Development that "VLOOKUP" formulas would become such an important part of my life? Or that I would be irritated by people who don't know to hit "Ctrl", "Shift" and the downward arrow to highlight all of the value-containing cells in a column? By the way, this is vital information that I pass on at every opportunity - the shortcut, that is, not the irritation.

There is something very satisfying about finding a quick way around a problem. When I do, I always feel an urge to share/brag about my discovery. Two weeks ago I finally figured out how to change data stored as text back to numbers (apparently the format menu doesn't help in this scenario). I excitedly demonstrated the solution to 5 different people. Well, 8 people if you count the extra 3 who were sitting with my cube-neighbor when I burst in to show off. Yes, one of them was the hottie from downstairs. What a dork...

At least once a week someone asks for my help with a formula. I find this immensely flattering and of course drop everything to run over and save the day. I love this stuff! I just wish I could spend more time at it. I should post a reverse "Help Wanted" ad: Excel enthusiast seeks data analysis post to optimize mad pivot table and VLOOKUP skills.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's my effing birthday

Several people asked today if I had birthday plans. I laughed. Of course not. Having plans usually implies having someone to share them with. My family is 100 miles away (too far for a weeknight) and my close family is 2,000 miles away. I don't have many friends because I don't hang onto friends very well. I don't do one-sided friendships. If I feel like I'm the only one making an effort then I will let the friendship fizzle out. So, no, I did not have birthday plans.

I think the lack of friends is because I was teased so much while I was growing up. I desperately wanted friends but didn't know how to make them. I was always just a little bit weird. My parents wouldn't let me eat sugar; I was the oldest of 12 kids (which meant there was always a baby on the way); my family was poor; my mom liked to spout off about conspiracies; my dad smacked me around and called me stupid; I wore stained and baggy clothes; I was overweight; every two years I was the new kid in town. So yeah, the kids my age had plenty to pick on. I'm sure I was a twitching bundle of neuroses. I probably wouldn't have been my friend either.

In college I realized that people I knew from church back home were not my friends. When they weren't forced to interact with me they quit interacting with me at all. I didn't want them to think of me as annoying and needy so I backed off and looked for friends in other places. Usually I ended up clinging to a roommate. I became irritated with Sunday-friendships, where people who never spoke to you or invited you to their parties would grab your arm in the hallway at church and say how glad they were to see you there. For that and a few other reasons I quit going to church.

Now here I am, 31 years old. I'm no longer defined by my family and parents. I dress better, smell better and do my hair better but I'm still overweight and still paranoid. I have very few friends and few opportunities for making them outside of work - and even then it's difficult because everyone is married with families. They don't have room in their lives for a tragic, neurotic single gal. Most of the time it's not so bad. I have learned to be okay with being alone. It's just difficult on birthdays.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Once you pop you can't stop

I have gone 5 days now without sugar. Somehow it's easier for me to abstain completely than it is to limit my portions. I am an emotional eater. I have been that way since at least the age of 10. If I start eating comfort food it's very difficult for me to stop.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with PCOS. My gynecologist told me one of the symptoms was insulin resistance. His wife is a nurse practitioner who runs a weight loss clinic. She designed a metabolic meal plan for me and met with me once a month. I was supposed to eat all the protein I wanted 5 times a day but limit myself to 20 grams of carbohydrate - no sugar, no grains, no fruits and no "root" vegetables.

I did really well at first. I lost 40 pounds in the first 3 months. After 9 months I had lost 65 pounds. It was easy to stay on the diet when I could see such obvious results. I was happy. I didn't need comfort food. Then I hit a plateau and the weight loss slowed to a crawl. I stuck to my diet and increased my exercise. I started keeping a food diary and shared it with the nurse practitioner. Nothing helped. At the most I was losing 2 pounds per month and she couldn't give me any advice to get things going again. I stopped meeting with her but still stuck to my diet.

In the middle of this plateau I went to my primary care physician for a physical. He found a lump on my thyroid and referred me to an ENT surgeon. A biopsy came back suspicious. The surgeon said 95% of these cases are cancerous and insisted on operating right away. I told him about my experience. He said my thyroid was interfering with weight loss but once I was on a regulated replacement hormone I would be able to lose weight again. I had the surgery in August and it turned out I didn't have cancer after all.

I think the shock of that experience contributed to what happened next. I dealt with my emotions the way I always have: with food. I probably thought I wouldn't need to be as strict anymore because the miracle replacement thyroid hormones would do the work for me. They didn't. I started gaining the weight back. I felt like a failure. I comforted myself by eating more. I tried off and on to stick to my diet but it seemed pointless. I didn't think the diet would work anymore because I had spent so much time on a plateau. Through February and March I tried a common-sense diet instead: lots of fresh fruits and veggies, a few whole grains, lean proteins, etc. I still gained weight. I guess the gyno was right. I am insulin resistant and I can't handle sugar.

It's time to snap out of it. Now that I'm facing breast reduction surgery I feel like I need to lose as much weight as possible before the procedure. I'm going back to the Atkins diet and hoping for the best. This week I'm trying to establish an exercise routine. I taped exercise plans to the wall downstairs. I decided to try 30 minutes of brisk treadmill walking every other day and alternate with abdominal work on a stability ball. I will gradually increase the walking to an hour. Tomorrow I'm planning to buy a scale for the first time in 10 years. Hopefully it will give me a sense of accountability and motivate me to stay on track.

I'm debating when I should have this surgery, assuming my insurance decides to cover it. If I'm losing weight in a month then I might want to keep losing and put off the surgery until July or August so my end result will be better. If I don't lose weight then I might as well have surgery as soon as possible so I can try more vigorous exercising. I suppose it's still too early to make that decision.