Accountability in the New Year

I started this blog with the original intention of public and personal accountability regarding my weight loss surgery journey, as well as the hope that it might educate at least one person who’s thinking of starting their own journey.

In that vein of accountability I’m sharing my regain struggles. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve unfortunately been letting old habits sneak back in. This has especially been true since I hit my personal goal weight last winter, which I was only really at for a hot minute. Slowly but surely I’ve regained back 10-14 lbs, depending on the day.

Not only have I let some old eating habits come back but Dad and I have been severely slacking in going to the gym regularly. There’s not really any valid excuse other than I got lazy and sat on my laurels. I never changed mentally, thinking that I could sneak by eating what I wanted but just in moderation. With food addiction this doesn’t work. Yeah you can only eat 2 cookies instead of your “normal” sleeve of cookies, but if the box is sitting next to you on the couch you’ll slowly make your way through that sleeve without a second thought. It might take an hour or more, but it’ll happen.

Everyone says that the sleeve (vertical sleeve gastrectomy) is only a tool. Tools help but first you have to help yourself. You have to make the mental shift that I actively fought against. I’m not sure why I actively fought against the mental shift needed for long term success, even though I heard from multiple resources, including my surgeon’s office, that you’ll lose the weight initially during the honeymoon phase practically no matter what you do but if you don’t make the mental changes needed then it comes back to bite you in the butt.

Below I included the requisite comparison photo collage. My smallest was 168 but I didn’t get the photo from the 2 minutes I was actually at that weight. The middle picture was from around the time Dad and I did the Flying Pig 5K. We were working out regularly in preparation. Even though the difference is only 10 lbs between then and now there is a noticeably visable difference. What little muscle tone I had is gone. My core strength is diminished so I’m not holding my stomach in as much and not standing up as straight.

Plus you can tell from my facial expression that my body confidence has been affected too. I realize I’m no where near where I started and have come far since the beginning of my journey, but that doesn’t take the feeling away of just feeling gross. The larger tummy roll has affected how my new smaller wardrobe fits. My stamina and strength have decreased. My headaches have increased again. And when you eat junk you just feel junky.

collage 2019-01-02 00_35_281727543587718341680..jpgSo that leads me to my goals in the new year. They’re fairly simple and take me back to basics immediately post-op:

1. Eat more protein, less carbs. Generally more well balanced. Maybe throw more vegetables in here and there for novelty’s sake.

2. Work out at least twice a week, even if Dad flakes out on me.

3. Increase my water intake.

4. Take my vitamins.

5. Start tracking my food again.

6. Start weekly weigh-ins again.

7. Start going to bed at a “normal” time, aka at least by 11-1130 every night during the work week.

8. Avoid complex carbs, aka those yummy addicting sweets. I need to take a page out of my mother-in-law’s book and not even start eating them. I’ve learned that once I start I don’t have the willpower to stop. That first piece of candy out of the snack drawer at work will lead to another 5-6 throughout the day. And it just goes on from there.

I think these are doable goals. Another super challenging goal that I’ve set for myself is that I’ve registered for my first 15K race, followed the same day by another 5K with my Dad. You read that right. By the end of that particular day I will have run 20K, with the potential of 25K if I decide to do the 5K walk after the race with my co-workers. Yes, I realize I’m a little insane, but I find that I’m better if I have a goal to work towards. I have just over 3 months to get myself up to speed, so to speak.

So here’s to the New Year and keeping accountable!

Advertisements

Paris! (part seven, last part I swear..)

Day Seven

Last and final day. We woke up at an ungodly hour and rolled out of bed to catch the train to the airport. My plane left at 1030am but the goal was to be at the airport at 730, with an hour train ride and getting ready that meant getting up at 500am. We were a tad tired at the station, can you tell?

Everything went well going through the airport security and such. I went through extra checks again because of my protein powder and bars. Also they really hated my sand filled migraine mask. The x-ray machine couldn’t penetrate it. I had the same issue going over. They swabbed it to make sure it was actually filled with sand and not some other white powder.

After having my seat switched twice I ended up in my own row all by myself. Leaps and bounds better than the trip over where I was stuck in the middle. I used all three pillows and blankets, and only woke up when there was food. It was glorious.

The Paris airport is something to behold. It has the most expensive stores I have ever seen in an airport. It even had a sushi bar with a conveyer belt, though it was breakfast time and had croissant on it instead of sushi. There was a tiny playground area, a video arcade area, an area with a Nintendo/ps2 consoles, and an area with lounge chairs overlooking the tarmac.

My husband and daughters met me at CVG with the cutest Welcome Home sign. We immediately then went out to our favorite American food place, Texas Roadhouse. The “yeehaws” make it that much more authentic.

This was such an awesome trip and I’m so incredibly grateful to my friend Jessie for making this happen. I would never in a million years been able to do this if not for her. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank her enough for this opportunity.

Take-aways for traveling as a post-op weight loss surgery patient:

1.Always have a bottle of water with you. Either buy a bottle after security in the airport on your way over or bring an empty refillable one with you.

2. If your WLS doctor offers the individual sample size of protein powders, buy some. They’re the easiest to get through security if you don’t want to check it, due to the amount limitations.

3. Bring protein bars aplenty. My personal choice is the Power Crunch brand. They’re a wafer style so they don’t sit as heavy as other bars. Always bring at least 2-3 with you when you are out for the whole day. They are a life saver!

This week included soooo many French pastries and macaroons and rich yummy food. Ironically one of the only two things I dumped off of was yogurt with peaches! The second was my yummy alcoholic drink Friday night. I kind of expected that one though. So:

4. Expect to dump off of something at some point, but be aware it’s not always predictable. You can be smart but like with the yogurt sometimes you’ll get surprised.

I didn’t have a single migraine all week, which was refreshing. I did wake up two mornings with a medium sized headache though. I put that down to lack of sleep and dehydration. So:

5. Try to get better sleep than I did at least, so more than 4-5 hours a night.

6. Keep up your hydration.

If you’re a weight loss surgery patient you can understand when I talk about being cold all the time now. I’ve lost all my insulation! So:

7. Layer, layer, layer! Layer your tops. Layer your bottoms. Even layer your socks. You will always be cold. The only time you won’t be cold is when you’re packed like a sardine with 10,000 other people in the train. Or when you’re overheating while dumping of course…

8. Paris is a very pedestrian city. Be prepared to walk, a lot a lot. At the same time it’s not ADA friendly at all. There might be an escalator but a lot of times there’s only one going one direction. There might be an elevator but it’ll literally be blocks out of your way to get to it. Very few of the stores are accessible. Groceries are in the basements, down stairs, inside larger stores. And trains I think would be nearly impossible to board in a wheelchair without significant help. The sidewalk corners are ramped though for bicycles.

So those are my words of wisdom. Most are common sense, some are from experience.

Hope you enjoyed going on my trip to Paris with me!

Paris! (part six)

Day Six

Day six, otherwise known as stairs day! We didn’t really plan ahead for our activities this day and the shear amount of stairs we would be doing by day’s end.

We started the day at the Eiffel Tower where we climbed the stairs to the second platform, approximately 700 stairs total. You can’t take the stairs all the way to the top. If you want to go all the way to the summit it’s an elevator ride up from the second platform and a second fee. The day that we went the summit was closed due to high wind.

All the pictures I’ve ever seen of the Eiffel Tower was of the tower itself or the grand gardens out front. There’s also a cute little lake and garden area at it’s base once you go through security.

On the first observation deck there was a little heated bubble/room with video games. There was also a little coffee shop counter and cute little seating areas made out of tram capsules.

On the second observation deck there’s a macaroon bar, of all things. Of course we rewarded ourselves with the yumminess. I discovered early this day why you should never wear pants that drag on the floor in Paris. My pants soaked nearly to my knees by the end of the day.

Climbing the tower’s stairs wasn’t really that hard but the thighs for sure were letting themselves known. Added bonus: the fee for the stairs is cheaper than the elevator.

After the Eiffel Tower we went to the Catacombs. At a certain point in Paris’ history they moved all the cemeteries’ bodies to the catacombs underneath the city. They’re 20 meters down, which meant going down a narrow spiral staircase 20 meters into the ground.

The bones were really surprisingly well organized. Really well, really creepily organized. As you go deeper the years get older and you could tell that those that were moving were getting bored with merely stacking the bones. They started putting designs into them: hearts, crosses, circles, random patterns, etc. As we were walking through the lights started to malfunction and at times we would be in absolute pitch black if it wasn’t for our cellphone light flashes. There was a tour group behind us that was actually ushered out because of the light issue. The experience was very unique and off the beaten path of regular tourism. I loved it. Looking through the pictures, take a special look at the sign for the entrance. They managed to sneak a skull in.

After the catacombs we bought a sandwich to split for the train ride to our next place: Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval castle. The Keep on the grounds was converted into a prison for awhile to hold regular prisoners as well as royal prisoners. You can still see the graffiti chiseled into the stone walls from the prisoners from hundreds of years ago. Included in the grounds of the castle was a gorgeous cathedral with some stained glass windows that rivals some at Notre Dam, in my opinion. Everything was white and airy and peaceful inside. I loved it.

By this time my thighs were literally shaking so I had to sit for a few minutes to rest, drink some water, have a protein bar.

From here we ventured out to the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, the largest and most famous cemetery in Paris. It is 44 square kilometers big. We visited Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde’s graves. Both grave sites are behind protective barriers to prevent vandalism.

Jim Morrison is behind what basically looks like a roadblock gate. The tree next to him was covered in used gum. It was obviously some kind of homage but I didn’t get it.

Oscar Wilde’s grave is surrounded by Plexiglas. Visitors used to leave behind red lipstick kisses on his gravestone. The lipstick was starting to damage the stone and was getting to be expensive so the family erected the Plexiglas. We could see people still left kiss prints on the glass.

At this point we could hear a bell in the distance, like a salvation army bell, ringing. We didn’t realize until someone zipped by in a car yelling at us in French to get out that it signified that the cemetery was closing.

It was very interesting see the older gravesites directly next to the newer, more modern sites. A several hundred year old gothic mini-chapel could be right next to a black granite slab modernist gravestone. It was very cool to see. There was even one that had a giant camera and a thing you could scan with your phone to an informational website.

It was very dark by time we made our way out of the cemetery. From here we made our way to the train station and then home. Napped, showered, and then fancified ourselves for our dinner reservation for our “last supper”.

Our last supper was at Le Wagon Bleu. The front room looks like a standard bar, but the back room looks like a diner car of the Orient Express. It was very cool and unique.

To drink I had my one alcoholic drink of the week: a cupidon (manzana, crème de peche, jus d’orange, jus d’airelle, and champagne). I tried a quintessential French food: beef tartare. It came out with a raw egg yolk on top. Mixed in was chopped onions, peppers, and various seasonings. According the waitress I was supposed to mix it all together, and if I wanted I could mix in either hot sauce, worsteshire sauce, or ketchup. I opted not to mix anything else with it as I found it flavorful enough on it’s own. It was really good but it was a bit weird eating cold beef.

We also had a yummy cheese sampler plate. For dessert we got le fiadone to share. Le fiadone is a traditional fresh Corsican cheese and lemon cake, served with lemon sorbet. It was interesting. Good flavors but very weird texture, kind of crumbly but soft.

I love the difference in height here in our picture together. I’m wearing ballet flats and she’s wearing 6 inch high heels. Her boob is basically on my shoulder. Lol…

When we got home I packed for the next day and Jessie passed out on the couch, while her cat tried to get her snoring catatonic body to pet her.

Paris! (part five)

Day Five

Thursday we went on the open air bus tour of the city. If you intend on getting on and off of the bus frequently and looking around or going into things, definitely invest in the 2 or 3 day ticket. We only bought the 1 day ticket and met the bus as it was making it’s first stop of the day closest to us at 1030am. They stopped at the end of the line at 530ish pm.

We got off the bus at the Notre Dam It is free to go inside and look around. To go up into the towers it costs money. You’re expected to take your hat off and be quiet, to be respectful of those praying. There’s also several little praying niches where photography isn’t allowed. On the right side, once you enter, is a row of confessionals. They have several and they are language specific, which is a nice feature that they even have the multiple options.

The stain glassed inside was gorgeous and breathtaking. The Christmas decorations were very simple and understated. There is also a little section that shows the evolution of the building itself, construction wise, which was cool. Outside a street artist drew my picture for his “collection”. I ended up accidently getting it for free as we ran to try to unsuccessfully catch the tour bus.

The missed bus stop gave us the opportunity to go to Jessie’s school really quick and turn in her paper from the previous day. I got to meet her teacher and mentor really quick too which was nice.

We also got off at the Louvre. We didn’t go inside the actual museum but did go down into the legendary glass pyramid. Underneath it’s basically a giant mall outside the museum itself. The square footage of this place is crazy huge. The museum itself would take several days at a pretty good speed to see everything. We didn’t have the time to do this, and the era of art that I really like isn’t actually at the Louvre so we opted not to go through it.

We went through the gardens and a little Christmas market to meet up with the tour bus on the other side. At the Christmas market they had very obviously repurposed Halloween rides, which was hilarious. We couldn’t resist going on the Christmas Zombie ride. It was hilariously kitschy and bad.

After the bus tour we swung by Jessie’s apartment and dropped off the gifts/souviners that had been collected throughout the day and then straight back out to the Musee d’Orsay. If you have to go to one museum in Paris, go here. It’s where all the impressionists are: Degas, Renoir, van Gogh, etc. I could have spent a really long time in here but we only got here an hour and half before closing.

Afterward we went to a cute little bistro around the corner and had a super yummy steak dinner, of which I was able to eat about 6 delicious bites of. Of course I got the rest to go.

Paris! (part four)

Day Four

As Jessie is in her fancy Master’s program she didn’t get to play with me everyday. Wednesday she had a paper to write so I adventured out alone.

First I slept in, which was heavenly. Then I went to investigate what Paris offered to the quilting geek that I am. I discovered Marche Saint-Pierre. It is a 5 floor fabric store and is quite possibly one of the largest I have ever been to. Each floor is several different kinds of fabric with the top floor being the quilting notions and accessories. The fabrics are all on huge rolls, not the normal bolts with folded fabric that I’m used to in the states. It’s a minimum 1 meter cut. None of the staff spoke English and of course I speak no French, so we used a combination of mime skills and my 4 French word vocabulary. There’s a staff member that is walking around with a meter stick. You track her down, she comes to the fabric pile that has your selected fabric roll and she measures and cuts it right there on top of the stack of other fabrics.

In the states it’s normal to find a remnant section in a fabric store. There they had whole remnant stores that were either next to or across the street from the main store. The few I popped into were 3 meter bundles and each were priced according to the individual fabric. I found some silk that I’ll probably fantasize about for a long time, but it was 30 euro a meter. With the limited budget I had brought with me, I couldn’t justify it regardless of how gorgeous it was. If you see a store that has “coupons” in the name, that’s a remnant store.

The whole street that this particular store was on was mostly little fabric and craft accessories stores. I was in quilter’s heaven. I fought really hard to stay within my budget though and mostly won. I’m kind of proud of myself.

After prying myself away from the fabric store street I decided to go wonder around the area around Notre Dam some. We had seen it briefly the day before while getting our Uber and I wanted to explore some more. I didn’t go inside yet though because the next day we were going on the open top bus tour around the city and I knew it was one of the stops.

At night it’s all lit up and pretty. At the beginning of the month they had an event thing where they lit it up all special with a light show. If you wanted to get close you had to buy tickets.

You always see the front of the Notre Dam, but you hardly ever see the backside. The two sides kind of feel disconnected architecture wise to me. The backside has a cute little fenced in garden. It doesn’t feel as big and overpowering. It feels more delicate.

Once it gets dark most everything shuts down. I didn’t want to eat out by myself so I ventured home on the train.

I do have to say it was nice walking around by myself for awhile. The two days before, though very fun, were very full and very long, with timeframes that had to be met. This day was nice and relaxing. I could go where and when I wanted. I wasn’t expected to talk to anyone about anything. It was a good day to decompress and experience the city. I’m one that sometimes likes to just sit quietly. My husband and I are perfectly content to sit next to each other on the couch not talking as we are talking most nights. It was nice to just be alone with my owns thoughts for a bit.

Jessie was still writing her paper when I get back so I supped on some yummy lemon chicken soup she had made in bulk, binged Star Trek Discovery, and worked on my hand sewing project for the rest of the night while she worked.

Paris! (part three)

Some observations for things to bring with you if you’re traveling to Paris in the winter:

  1. Bring thermals, or at minimum leggings, to wear under your clothes. It’s not as cold as Ohio but it is quite cold to be out in the whole day. In that same vein bring a coat, hat, gloves, scarf, etc but also bring sweaters and long sleeve shirts to layer underneath.
  2. Bring waterproof, warm, comfy boots.
  3. Don’t bring pants that drag on the ground, ie boot cut or bell bottom jeans. The ground is always wet. Even if it’s not currently raining it probably rained the night before. The couple of days I wore my boot cut jeans they soaked up nearly to my knees just simply by having the cuff drag the wet ground.
  4. My best purchase beforehand was a travel anti-theft cross body purse from TJ Maxx. The zipper has this little clip that hooks to a thing so it can’t be easily unzipped. The straps are super strong so they can’t be cut. It’s small enough that it’s not in the way and big enough to fit my water bottle I had bought at the airport and just kept refilling the whole week. It also fit my tiny travel umbrella, wallet, and cellphone with no issues. It’s lined with anti-rfid technology. And it also had a little locking clip on the back for the strap that I used to clip my bags to as I gathered gifts and souvenirs throughout the day.
  5. Bring a portable charging stick. I only used my phone as a camera during the day, leaving it on airplane mode the whole day. It came to the rescue more than once.

Day Three

Versailles!

It is an hour train out to Versailles, usually. However it took us nearly 2.5 hours to get to Versailles. 20 minute train ride from Jessie’s apartment to the connecting station. Waiting on the platform for the train to Versailles that comes every 24 minutes. 24 minutes come and go. On the tracking screen our train has disappeared and then reappeared a few minutes later. 24 more minutes go by and it does the same thing. We finally think to translate the French in the bold red border trailing across the bottom of the screen. Our train is actually delayed a minimum 1.5 hours for mechanical issues.

At this point we’ve hooked up with another American family that had been waiting for the train as well. We all decide to go topside and split a taxi. We all trek up the stairs and down the street to the taxi stand, experience our first view of Notre Dame in the process. All the taxis that come by are too small to fit all 6 of us. Eventually we decide to split up for time sake, and of course after that decision the only taxis we see are full. After about another 15-20 minutes of waiting we call 2 Ubers to come and get us. 45 minute car ride filled with French rap music later and we finally arrive at Versailles!

For awhile we tour the palace with the American family, who were super nice, but eventually we break off on our own. The murals and ceilings were all gorgeous. The grounds were gorgeous. Learning about the evolution of the palace itself through the ages was really interesting. Jessie took me to see Marie Antoinette’s little farm on the corner of the estate. I could definitely live there for sure. Because of the time issues getting there it got dark earlier in our tour than we had planned so we didn’t get to see too much of the grounds and gardens, but as it’s winter it’s not the biggest of losses. All the statues were covered up and nothing was in bloom.

After our tour of the palace itself and before venturing to the other things on the estate we had a quick lunch in a little ala cart café inside Versailles.

They didn’t really have any protein heavy meal options left, as it was late in the day, so we had tomato basil soup, strawberry nectar, and macaroons. Pretty much all carbs on top of carbs, but super yummy to be sure. Very glad I had brought protein bars and string cheese with me.

I simply can’t describe the beauty that is Versailles so I’m not even going to try. If you ever get a chance to go, go. Be prepared for a bunch of school field trip kids to be around you though. And take the extra little petit train ride out to the ourskirts of the estate to see the mini-palaces. I actually liked them better for living. They were smaller in scale but felt less claustrophobic to me, weirdly enough. There was also the option to rent a golf cart to self tour around the grounds.

One thing that I found a bit irritating was the times for the restaurants. They open and close at the weirdest hours. Before you set out for any particular place triple check their times. We ended up finding a little restaurant about a 5 minute walk to the train station to eat in and they actually were closing up for the day right after we left. It was only 7pm. I honestly don’t remember what I ate. I was so tired. But I do remember that it was yummy and that I took leftovers home with me, par for the course, and ate the rest later at the apartment as a second dinner, like the hobbit that I am.

I don’t think it’s usual practice for Parisians to take leftovers home with them. Every time I asked for a doggy bag I’d get a look and their to-go boxes weren’t really travel-friendly. Also you have to ask for a bag, no matter what you’re buying. If you’re buying anything in a store they’ll actually charge you for a plastic bag, so people bring canvas bags with them everywhere.

Luckily by time we got to the train station at the end of the night it was functioning again and we had no more issues going home.

Paris! (part two)

Day two

Day two’s plan was to run amok at Disneyland Paris. Not realizing our e-tickets had to be physically printed out we had to make a detour to Jessie’s school to use their printer. Not a bad delay though since it gave me the opportunity to see her school. We then took the hourish train ride to Disney.

Paris Disney is not nearly as big as ours. They just have two parks, Magic Kingdom and Studios, and a lot of the rides are repeats between ours and theirs, if you’ve ever been to Florida’s Disney. They do have a few they are unique to Paris though, like the Ratatouille ride in Studios. Their hours are also a lot shorter and their restaurants stop serving a lot earlier before closing than ours. Combined with the times and the delay getting there to print, our time was limited.

We concentrated on doing the Parisian specific rides and the few iconic must-ride rides, like It’s a Small World. I also did all my Holiday shopping for my twins here. Phoebe is obsessed with Minnie Mouse, so that was easy. Zoe, however, is into villains. Maleficent to be exact. We went through just about every store and only found a 2 foot section in the very last store of villain related paraphernalia. Luckily they had exactly what I needed, but still. Not every little girl is obsessed with princesses.

We didn’t plan our food throughout the day well enough and by the end of the day were a little desperate for real food. I had brought a few protein bars with me but those were consumed earlier while waiting in lines. Early on we split my first official new French food, a crepe with fig jam. By time we decided to eat all the restaurants were closing for the day. We ended up finding a sandwich place next to the little shopping area (downtown Disney kind of) next to the train station where we got something for the ride back to Paris. It was gloriously yummy. I ended up only eating half mine of course, saving the rest for a midnight snack later.

Note my fun leggings. They’re sugar skull Disney Villains. I love them 🙂 I actually wore these doing my very first 5K, which happened to be with Jessie too.

On the way train ride back we just happened to sit and chat with a lovely British couple that had been on the train with us that the morning. They had recognized my hair. Apparently I’m just a tad conspicuous…

 

Paris trip! (aka traveling post-wls)

This past Saturday I returned from a weeklong trip-of-a-lifetime visiting a friend in Paris. She’s there for a year doing a fancy Master’s degree at the Parisian branch of Columbia University. As promised in a previous post I’m going to take you guys through my incredible week. Fair warning, it will be picture heavy but I will work in information every now and again about how it is to travel as a post-op WLS patient.

I’m going to do an individual post for each day, just so it’s broken up a bit and this one post isn’t forever long.

Day One

img_20181215_2256063171064888307333014.jpg

I left Cincinnati at 610pm and got into Paris at about 800am Paris time. They’re 6 hours ahead of us so my body actually thought it was 2am. 8.5 hour flight and I didn’t sleep a single wink.  I was smack dab in the middle seat of the plane, between two men that slept the entire time. I was definitely more comfortable in my seat than I would have been 100lbs ago and was very aware that I was no longer encroaching in on their space, which was a nice feeling. I also had a fair amount of the seatbelt tail from tightening it more than I have been able to in the past. I was going to take a picture of the seatbelt tail and space left over in the actual seat on either side of me, but with being in the middle seat I thought it’d be too conspicuous.

The food wasn’t terrible in flight. I got a chicken something or other. It was edible enough and actually perfectly sized for Madame McSleevy. I stashed the extra cheese nibbles and crackers for “midnight” snacks. I also brought with me protein shake powder that I had bought from my doctor’s office, in individual sample packets to pass security, and a bunch of protein bars and string cheese. Of course they had to do extra security checks on it all at the TSA checkpoint, making sure I’m not sneaking in something nefarious. They rubbed this little paper all over the packaging and then put it into a machine. I suppose they were checking for residue of some sort. Once through security I was able to buy a bottle of water and use a packet of my protein powder for lunch. I had brought one of my smaller shaker bottles with me.

I was met at the other side by my friend Jessie, after some being lost and not being able to find each other fun-ness. Word of advice: if you fly into Paris don’t venture away from the immediate arrivals area if meeting someone. The signs don’t help you find each other at all. She met me with flowers, a lovely handmade sign, and white chocolate (my go-to candy choice pre-surgery).

mvimg_20181216_1005581918715861990692067.jpg

After an hour train ride, that felt like no time at all, we got back to her apartment and took a well earned nap. Woke up about 2-3pm and adventured out! We took a train to the Arc de Triomphe and wondered down the Champs-Elysées, which has the most expensive stores you will ever see in one place. Eventually we stopped for dinner at a little place called Le Grand Palais. We ended up splitting the duck and a crème brulee. It was delicious and the perfect amount of food.

 

One thing in Paris, and I’m not sure if this is just Paris/France specifically or applies to most European countries, is that you have to specify if you want tap water or not. If you don’t specify they will bring you a bottle and charge you for it. Tap water is free. They also don’t ever put ice in their water. It’s not exactly room temperature but not far off. One bonus is that you’re not expected to tip. They’re actually paid a living wage and don’t expect it. If you leave something then it’s just a bonus. Also, there’s no tax. The price listed on something is the actual amount you’re going to pay. Even on the last day my brain couldn’t overcome this. It kept trying to automatically calculate the tax when I was buying something.

After dinner we decided to walk over to the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up at night. Every hour, on the hour, it lights up all shimmery sparkly for maybe 10 minutes. It was gorgeous. We then walked to the train and went home to rest up for the busy week we had planned ahead of us.

 

 

Just the week or so before we were there, there was a huge protest in this spot by the arc. I had seen a picture that there was so many people it was just wall to wall people. You couldn’t see any evidence that anything had happened at all. Everything was totally cleaned up. Later in the week I did see some graffiti referencing their president in another spot though that hadn’t been cleaned yet.

The above picture of me standing in front of the arc is about 20 feet from the metro escalator. When you’re coming up the arc kind of just slowly presents itself as you emerge upward. It’s very dramatic. There is an option to buy a ticket and go up the internal stairs of the arc to an observation area. We opted not to do this.

My Brother’s Harry Potter Themed Wedding

Last month my older brother, Brian, wed his beautiful blushing bride, April, on October 18th (10-18-2018) in an awesomely Harry Potter themed wedding. It was in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff colors. My girls were the flower girls in Beauxbatons uniforms personally made by moi. I was amongst the bridemaids. My husband was among the other guests, looking on.  During the ceremony they even did a version of the Unbreakable Vow. It was beautiful. I’ll admit that my face went twitchy with emotion during the ceremony.

I don’t even want to think about how much time my brother spent personally handcrafting all of the centerpieces, chocolate frogs, invitations, save-the-dates, Maurader’s Map seating chart, photo booths, and more. Everything was gorgeous and incredibly detailed. And because they’re both lovers of breakfast the reception had a breakfast buffet for dinner, with assorted pie for dessert instead of traditional wedding cake.

Our Mom escaped temporarily from the nursing home for the day to attend with Dad. One of the nurses volunteered her time to come with as well, so that Dad could concentrate being father-of-the-groom and husband instead of Mom’s nursemaid. April’s Mother also made sure to include Mom in everything, as much as she could be, which I know we greatly appreciated and didn’t anticipate at all. Mom was up in her wheelchair from 1pm to 10pm, which for her was way more than we thought she’d be able to do. In recent months, 2 hours was her limit before wanting to get back into bed. That just showed how engaged and how much fun she had. We’re very proud of her, fully anticipating a nightmare scenario of her wanting to get out of her chair within the first hour or having dirtied her Depends with no available facilities to remedy the situation. Luckily nothing close to that scenario ever materialized.

I was honored for the girls and I to be included in the wedding party and festivities. It was great fun all around! The girls behaved themselves the entire night, and then went to spend the night at my mother-in-law’s. She even took them to school the next day. Since my husband and I had taken off work the following day and were childless till they got off the bus afterschool, we took the opportunity to eat lunch out and go to the movies. It was very very nice.

A week before the wedding itself for the Bachelorette Party April, the other Bridesmaids, and I participated in a Harry Potter themed bar crawl. There were themed drinks, costumes and costume contest, “free” wands and house sorting, and lots of alcohol involved. Of our little group I was the only one to dress in costume, kind of. I went as Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. Not from the Harry Potter-verse, but still magical, right?

And now for the pictures! Very much out of character, I took very few pictures myself. The fast majority of these I stole from other people, hence the lack of pictures of my husband.

Bachelorette:

Rehearsal dinner (barbeque):

mvimg_20181017_2036087743450784101918281.jpg

Wedding and reception:

 

Harry Potter Themed stuff:

World Stroke Day

October 29th is World Stroke Day, meant to bring awareness and educate about the signs, symptoms, etc of strokes. Prepare yourself. I am about to overload on information graphics via slideshow form:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you’re interested in more information or want to donate towards research and education please visit the below website:

https://worldstrokeday.strokeassociation.org/

Please educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Remember: FAST (face, arms, speech, time). Time is brain health. The longer it takes to get the intervention you need, the more brain tissue/function you lose.

This subject is very personal to me. My mother had a major stroke 6 years ago, on October 26th, 2012. Time worked against her in multiple ways and she’s now in a long term nursing facility, bed-bound and wheelchair-bound. She has full left side paralysis, left side neglect, and some mental deterioration. The mental deterioration is not helped by the fact that she’s essentially deaf without her hearing aids, which the nursing home staff rarely put in.

If you get one thing from this please let it be this: with a stroke, time is your enemy. Be your own advocate and don’t take no for an answer. If you’re unable to be your own advocate, designate someone to be that person for you and make sure that that person is someone that will fight for your rights, both during the stroke episode and after. Life after a catastrophic stroke sucks. Your new health reality sucks and recovery sucks, but having to deal with the health and insurance systems suck more.

Educate yourself and those around you. *Steps off soap box*