Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Beginnings of Rose Season at Der Rosenmeister Nursery

As the month of May begins to get seriously warm and humid, the roses at Der Rosenmeister Nursery are starting their flush of color and intense smell. After an almost non-existent winter, Lee's roses took some considerable abuse this spring; heat waves in February followed by wave after wave of late frosts (some very hard frosts!) and culminating in an extremely large hail storm just a few weeks ago. Even through all of the precarious weather and massive fluctuations in the seasonal norms, Lee's roses are still full of color and vigor! Der Rosenmeister is open most weekends and by appointment. Follow Lee on facebook and his blog (and website!).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Back in the Garden

This week has been my first week back in the garden in nearly three years. The summer before the coma, I was so busy trying to make enough work in preparation for being down post-surgery, I figured the garden was a luxury I could afford to postpone. Since then, it has been impossible for me to maintain. We had decided to dig up some of my favorite plants and pot them up, in hopes that in the future we could find better homes for them. Then we are planning to turn some of these perennial beds into lawn again. Really breaks my heart. So much work, so much time... and now I have to let some of it go. Reassess how much my body can manage. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Getting Out

self-portrait with my favorite wide brimmed hat, after a morning in the garden

For the first time in over two years, I am finally back out in the garden. With virtually no stamina, and some days, even less strength, it has been tiring. But being back outside, among the birds and butterflies, the buzzing of the bees and with Georgia jumping through the bushes.... it is such a great freedom.

Tomorrow is the Ithaca Plant Sale. The last time we went to the plant sale, we brought home a van full of plants; annuals, perennials and shrubs. This year we are trying to cut down on what we have to take care of. Much of what we aim to pick up will be potted up annuals. Many of our beds of perennials will be dug up, weeds cut down and the best plants replanted elsewhere. My hope is to see at least two of these perennial beds turned into a small orchard of fruit trees. Now that we have our deer fence around the garden, it finally seems possible.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Dog That Walked on Water

There is something so funny about watching Georgia bounce out of the water when we're down at the lake. It isn't like she dislikes the water. She loves being wet. From what we've seen, she is afraid of the waves. Luckily, on this afternoon, there were no waves and we were able to convince her to go farther and farther out. Some of our friends have suggested we head into the water with her, so as to help reassure her that it is okay to learn to swim. Once she can swim, I doubt we'll have a dry dog again all summer long.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Open WHAT?

In the past three weeks, I have come to realize that my days consist of opening things. I start by opening my glucose meter kit and getting a blood sugar level first thing in the morning. Then I get to open seven different pill and vitamin bottles. Then I get to move on to breakfast... opening the containers for the fake eggs and cottage cheese, hot sauce and mustard. Once all that food is in hand, it is time to open up the local news headlines online. Open this, open that. And somehow, through all of this, an open mind is expected too.

Imagine my amusement when I came across this image taken while getting ultra-close to a fire hydrant in my yard. I can only hope there will never be a cause to have to open those valves!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cat Food, Me Food

I promised to give folks some idea of what I eat on a given day.

Let's start with the size of the plate... that is smaller than most teacup saucers. The serving size is from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup TOTAL per meal. Let that sink in for a second. 1/4 cup of food is about three to four bites for most eaters.

I typically start my day out with 1/4c of egg replacement, with a smattering of mustard and hot sauce. The hardest part was finding hot sauce that didn't have sugar in it.

Next: I take about 30-45min to eat those fake eggs. Some mornings, if I am still hungry after finishing my pseudo-eggs, I will have a tiny fat-free,sugar free yogurt. Half an hour after I finish, I can start drinking for the morning. By about 9:30 - 10am I am starting to get hungry again. I have to stop drinking a half an hour before I even think about eating.

Now it's 10am.... time for second breakfast. This is when I usually have either a homemade protein shake made with Unjury Protein Powder and 1% lowfat milk (1cup). Some mornings, I am on the road to see doctors or clients, so I bring along that lovely product on the far left of this image: Boost, Glucose Control. Tastes pretty close to a McDonalds milkshake that has sat in the car overnight. Thick, vanilla-ey, cold(ish), and sweet.

Three hours later I am ready for lunch. Lunch is usually 1/4c of canned chopped chicken breast and 1/4c of refried beans, with more mustard and hot sauce. With the exception of honey mustards, most mustards have zero sugar! That was a nice thing to find out.

No one I have ever met likes the way refried beans smell straight from the can. Same thing with canned chicken. Our cats went nuts when they heard the can-opener. They assumed (and it smelled like) it was cat food. As I sat down the first time to cold chopped chicken and cold refried beans, I thought there was no way on earth I could do it.

Hah! It was awesome. Go figure.

Midafternoon I often find my tummy rumbling and dinner seems a long time away. Sometimes I can hold off the major hunger with some sugar-free/fat-free instant pudding. I get a little bit of protein from the pudding, but mostly I get some mouth-satisfaction and some brain-satisfaction.... more on those issues in another post. If pudding doesn't seem like it would hit the spot, then I will try 1/4 c of sugar free applesauce, or even sugar-free jello.

Not too long before hunger takes over and bonks me on the head, dinner for the family becomes a priority. With all the smells and textures of preparing food (that I can't eat)... my mind starts REALLY looking forward to dinner. A pretty typical evening meal is 1/2 c of mashed tuna with 1-2T lowfat mayo, some mustard (yeah, I know...who puts mustard on tuna?....try it! it's amazing!).... and if I am still hungry after eating the tuna (always protein first)... then I am allowed to have up to 1/4c of some pureed vegetables: smashed peas, pureed green beans, mashed potatoes, liquified carrots, squished beets.. you get the idea. I get a taste. Not much more than that.

What am I drinking? Well...drinking is a whole new thing too. First off, you can't use a straw. Too much air entrainment. Basically, you sip... 1-2oz at a time. Less than a swallow. Just barely enough to take pills with. I am allowed non-caffeinated beverages as long as they are sugar-free and non-carbonated. For now, that looks like 1% or fat free milk (which counts towards the day's protein intake), sugar-free Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, herbal teas, and water. Not terribly exciting, but crucial. Given the window of time around eating, it is essential that you spend the non-eating time slowly sipping on your drinks.

Today I found a way to make a hot chocolate drink with sugar-free hot cocoa, mixed with a scoop of vanilla protein powder, 1T of instant decaf coffee, and a splash of sugar free caramel syrup. It was awesome. Perfect drink for a cool wet day. The best part is that it counts as a meal. More on meal requirements in another post.

In closing... I want to point out that to eat all the food in this image would take me more than 2 days. Yeah. This is a whole new world. Tiny portions, tiny bites, lots of time between bites, and giving myself ample time to really savor the experience.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shoot the Moon

Last night was the super-moon ... the biggest full moon of 2012. Okay, well.... by the time I started trying to shoot the sky clouded up. Three nights in a row, I tried to capture this mega-moon in all of its glory. I was so disappointed.  After calling it a night and putting everything away, I went back to working on the computer till bedtime. Around midnight, I went to take the puppy outside and the sky was clear. Not a cloud in the sky! Shot a half dozen frames and nailed it.

Here is what I learned: the moon is bright. Brighter than you think.

If your camera is set to auto exposure, it is comparing a bright object in an insanely dark sky. When that averages out, you end up with a sky that is tending towards "less than black" and a moon that is just a white blob.

So how do you get the moon to retain sharpness and detail and the proper exposure?

Remember that the moon is reflecting SUNLIGHT. Sounds strange since we are shooting at night. Put your camera on full manual control. Set your shutter speed to 1/250, ISO 200, and f/16. Yep. Sunny sixteen rule that back in the film days was the gold standard for shooting outdoors on a bright sunny day. Shoot and then check your lcd to see how the exposure turned out. I found that I wasn't getting dark enough darks at that exposure, so I pushed to f/22 and then brightened my highlights in Lightroom 4 in post.

This was my first successful photograph of the moon, ever. Now I have some better ideas to try next time!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Was Gonna Talk About Food...

I was gonna talk about food tonight... in part because hunger and cravings are back with a vengeance. Instead, I am going to finally show off our new fence. We can talk about how wonderful it is. Yeah. That's got to be better than talking about food tonight.

So why on earth did we need such a big fence? For the last decade, we have tried to have a garden full of perennials and fruit trees and even some vegetables. Every year, without fail, our daily herd of deer would use our yard as a short cut to the greatest salad bar in the neighborhood. Without fail, just as our plants were starting to look amazing, the deer would mow them down perfectly.

When Leon Ginenthal of Der Rosenmeister Nursery suggested we call Anthony Burkholder  to install our fence, we were really unsure how we would fare. I have seen deer jump eight foot high fences no problem. I asked Lee how his rose nursery had fared with deer predation. He hasn't had a single deer problem since his fence went up. He spoke highly of Burkholder and said we would never regret doing it.

In the last picture tonight, you can see the last straggler from a group of eight deer that crossed not twenty feet from where I was shooting. No fear. No hesitation.

At least now we can say that the salad bar is off limits to these varmints!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Day 17 and counting

Seventeen days ago I had my stomach reshaped from the size of a bloated football and turned into something about the diameter of my thumb. For folks who want a better idea of what they did and how, here is a picture describing the surgery. And here is a little more information about what the surgery entails.

I have had numerous questions on facebook asking two basic questions:
1) Why did I have this surgery (or does this fix what the surgeons botched back in 2009?)
2) What kind of eating restrictions do I have?

The answer to the first question is pretty straightforward. I decided last year that I was tired and frustrated of dealing with all the complications that have arisen as a result of the failed surgery and coma back in 2009. I have been plagued by every sort of complication one can have after such a debacle.... diabetes, heart issues, sleep apnea, hernias, and more. My life was becoming one giant trip to the doctor. After seeing my colon/rectal surgeon for the second time, he suggested bariatric surgery as a last ditch solution to help me lose fifty pounds or more. I had been trying to lose weight ever since my massive abdominal wound had healed in 2010... with no success. The assumption now is that the liver function and the pancreatic function were both damaged due to the sepsis and peritonitis. The amount of visceral fat throughout my body and around my organs had reached a point where the fat had a mind of its own. I say that only slightly ironically. This is a hot topic in the research of obesity and diabetes.

After meeting with my colon/rectal surgeon, Dr. Domajnko, he recommended Dr. Johnson at Highland Hospital perform some type of gastric surgery. The idea is that in order for Dr. Domajnko to have enough room to get inside me, re-attach the large intestine to the rectum (basically fixing the colostomy),...and then to repair all the numerous hernias... he wanted LOTS of room to work. The only way for that to happen is to lose a ton of weight.

In short, the gastric sleeve surgery doesn't fix the hernias or the colostomy, but it has already had major effects on most of my other symptoms. My diabetes is GONE. Sleep apnea and heart issues are showing great improvement. The weight is coming off incredibly rapidly. More on this stuff in a later post.

So, on to question #2. Eating restrictions.
Here is the link to the pdfs that Highland Hospital's bariatric team requires that patients follow:
Currently I am on the pureed diet, stage 2, and will be until the end of May.

The short answer for folks wishing they could bring me food, etc, is don't worry about it. I can't eat "normal" food till July, but in the meanwhile, this is NOT a bad thing. I look forward to every meal and I enjoy it thoroughly. I am not suffering at all! The hardest part is remembering to eat often, to eat slowly and to stop when I am full. Hard to adjust the brain to think in such incredibly small quantities. The most food I ever eat amounts to 1/2 cup of protein plus up to 1/4 c of mashed veggies. That is not a lot of food. And it takes me close to an hour to eat it all.

More on the food stuff in the next post!