Sunday, July 15, 2018

Running Post an Injury and My Constant Struggle with Weight

I ended my last post with a reference to #walkTOrun. It's my new hash tag for my latest effort to get back to running and exercise. I've started and re-started so many times it's not even funny. I can't even remember the first time I really started running, unless it was 10 years ago on a treadmill at the gym. That's when I got the lap band and lost the biggest amount of weight.

Biggest I've been, June 2006 - Smallest I've been post high school, January 2009

The smallest I've ever been is high school. Who wasn't? Once I started college it was a downhill battle with my weight with me reaching the biggest size you see in the left picture, after college, being married and having two kids. I would lose weight with each pregnancy and nursing, but the weight would come right back. In December of 2007 I got the lap band and the picture on the right was taken in January of 2009,

The last ten years have had their ups and downs weight wise but I have never gotten back to the biggest size I am on the left. Around a year and half ago I found a new lap band doctor after my old clinic closed. I was en route back to my lowest weight post lap-band when I started feeling a lot of restriction. I was about to go on vacation to Germany so my doctor took a good amount of fluid out. Since then I've had a fill but I haven't gotten back to the right spot and I've gained weight.

So here I am now. I'm 48, I cut my ankle pretty badly before summer even started, and I've gained fourteen pounds total since last year. I've struggled with my weight my whole life, but now I'm at the age where it's do or die. It's not about looks any more. It's about surviving and living longer than my mom did. I'd like to land somewhere between 69, the age my mom was when she died, and 94, the age my dad almost reached when he passed away last February. 

What's really frustrating is that two years ago, a whole year before that lap band complication, I had been really running for the first time in my life. By running I mean not on a treadmill, outside in the heat, on the streets, and I'd built up to a really good walk/run rhythm. I was running more that summer than even a year ago. I want to get back to that type of running. 

I know not everyone has a lap band to help them but at my age, and with the complications I've had lately with my foot, I think there are still a lot of people who can relate to my struggle. A lap band is not a magic bullet solution. It's a small helping hand but you can still eat around it and cheat the system. Believe me, I've learned how to do that in the past 11 years. I want to blog about running post an accident and injury and how to beat this monkey that's been on my back my whole life. 

Goal 2

                                                                   Biggest I've been, June 2006 - June 2017

My first goal is to start walking again so I can build up to my walk/run once my foot is better. My second goal is go get to where I was last year in the yellow dress above. If I can get to the yellow dress size then it's only 10 more pounds to get to the size I was in the gray dress in the top photo. After gray dress the final goal is to get down 10 more pounds than that. But baby steps.

Goal #1 starts tomorrow. Back to walking to build up to run and preparing my meals the night prior so I have time to exercise. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Freak Accident & New Running Goals

Where to start... should I start with finding a well in my back yard? Which some of my friends would debate was the beginning of "the series of unfortunate events." But I feel like the well is a story all by itself and that if I mix it in here it won't get to shine in the limelight by itself. So stay tuned for the entire story about the well.

Me in the Emergency Room After Getting Seven Stitches

I know you're now wondering what the heck the well story is all about so I will just tell you. In a nutshell I found a well in my back yard, like a real honest to goodness water well, with all the bricking on the inside, ten feet deep. We've owned the house for 17 years and I never knew it was there. So some of my friends joked that I had opened a portal into the under world and shortly after that I had about three bad things happen to me. 

One of the crazy things that happened to me was that I cut my ankle open with a bottle of Topo Chico water. I posted this on on Facebook and I had some friends who reached out via private message to ask me for more details in order to understand what had happened. I had other friends who just read it and imagined their own scenario in their head and thought it happened completely differently.  So here is the real story. This is a long story so sit back, get another drink, or go use the restroom now.

It was a freak accident and in hindsight I should have made a completely different decision and maybe I wouldn't have this huge scar on my ankle and nerve damage now. 

On the eve of Mother's Day I went grocery shopping at Walmart on a Saturday, when I usually go on Sundays. Maybe that was my first mistake. I wanted a 12 pack of Topo Chico like the ones I always see set up in the main middle aisle of the grocery side but I didn't see any. (Ironically because I wanted to cut down on drinking so I drink Topo Chico with lime and salt like a margarita.)  Instead of leaving well enough alone I asked one of the employees. He told me he had some in the back and he brought me one. I put it in my cart, took it out again to have the cashier scan it when I paid for my groceries and took it to my car. As I was putting all my groceries up I saved the 12 pack for last because it's heavy. I had a bunch of blankets in my back trunk area so I had to put most of my groceries in my back seat. When I set the 12 pack of Topo Chicos down on the floor of my back seat I heard a crack. I had set the pack of bottles down too hard and I broke a bottle inside. Bottle #1.

Second mistake. I should have just taken that damn 12 pack back inside and asked for an exchange but I didn't feel like hassling, plus I had frozen stuff in my car. Ha! Hindsight is 20/20 and this is a perfect example of that. No, instead I decide to open the box to see which bottle was broken. It was the bottle in the very middle. Once again, another reason I should have just taken the box back inside. I get the brilliant idea of taking each out bottle and wiping off the shards of glass and water and putting each one down on the floorboard of the front passenger side. I even sat down on the passenger side seat, legs out the door, taking out each bottle, wiping it and setting them down on the floorboard. 

I was on the 10th bottle when it slipped out of my hand and crashed to the cement, right between my legs. Bottle #2 that I broke. Imagine a full bottle of carbonated water crashing down and the explosion of that bottle because of the pressure inside. Also imagine my legs very close to the bottle because I was sitting inside the car with my legs out. So I didn't drop it from very far when it hit the ground and it hit right between my feet.  When it hit, it somehow bounced or something (it happened so fast I don't know how it happened) and the bottle cut me on the inside of my right ankle. It made a nice curved shape of a bottle cut. Blood gushed out like a little fountain, not a little trickle of blood, and I knew that it was a deep cut.

I almost panicked, but I didn't. I got my stuff together, tried wrapping my makeup rag around my ankle and I started limping towards the store for help. I think I called my best friend and then my ex husband before I did that. Best friend didn't answer and ex husband said he'd be there as fast as he could. I won't tell you all about the couple who drove up and didn't even try to help me because it will just make me mad all over again. I will tell you about the awesome angel named Angela, a Walmart employee, who came to my rescue. She saw me in the parking lot, helped me inside, cleaned my cut, stopped the bleeding or at least slowed it down, and then bandaged me up so Rey could take me to the emergency room.

Two emergency rooms later I left around 10 p.m. with seven stitches and a $1,000 co-pay. Awesomeness. So you see, even if some things had defrosted while I returned the 12 pack of Topo Chico it would have still been way cheaper and less painful. 

Side note: Walmart and Topo Chico were great about reaching out afterwards. I told them both that it was a freak accident and nobody's fault and I had to assure them that I wasn't going to sue anybody. I broke both bottles. One inside the box and the other one outside the box and that's the one that cut me. (I feel the need to clarify this part because apparently it's confused some people)

Eight weeks later. I'm wearing high heels again for short periods of time and I started walking for exercise again. Bad news is that the cut was so deep that I have nerve damage in the area under the cut. So my foot is still swelling there and it hurts when I've been on my feet too long or walked too long.

I often think about those running memes that I see about being grateful that you can still run when others can't. I appreciate those memes now. I have to start over completely from the bottom again and I have to build up to the small walk/jog routine I had going. I'm going to start blogging about running after an injury and I hope that there are people out there who can relate and maybe share their experiences. So new goals! I will build up to running again one day soon. In the meanwhile I will #walkTOrun!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Westcott Cemetery Update

I'm setting a new goal to blog once a week as much as possible. Of course life always gets in the way and so on, but I will do my best. I've never really used this blog as a money-maker or as a way to really promote myself as a writer. It's always been more of a writing outlet for me. But when I find out that my blog made a difference in someone's day or even affected the course of the way things may have gone it's very inspiring.


I have a really cool follow up story to my blog post regarding the Westcott Cemetery ten years ago. Five years later one of the descendants of the Westcott family contacted me on this blog post. She told me that she and her sisters had been researching their genealogy and she had come across my blog about her family's cemetery. We had lunch and I learned more about the Westcott family and Gayle and I became friends.

Fast forward five years later and Gayle's sister Sara has led an effort to to take back ownership of the cemetery and to create a non-profit organization, the Westcott Cemetery Association. I was so honored when recently I was asked me to sit on the board of this association with them, as well as with their another sister and members of the community. 

Last weekend my daughter Miranda and I volunteered to clean up the Westcott Cemetery with neighborhood friends and volunteers from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, who were in town volunteering with several causes. I took pictures and went on ice runs but Miranda did a lot!

Miranda hard at work!

The cemetery has had years when it's been cleaned by the city, the community and years when it is completely forgotten. Keeping it clean is not a one time job of course. It's something that has to be kept up regularly and that's hard work. Last weekend's efforts really made a huge difference! 

I love this story for so many reasons. First of all because I love this cemetery. We first went there because my sister insisted that my dad stop so we could explore. I used to like to go there as a little girl and I kept up with it over the years and I would drive by. I was so sad when I found out that the archway with the name had either fallen or possibly knocked down by vandals. But I'm so excited that I can now make a difference in the care that this cemetery receives. As you all know, I'm obsessed with old cemeteries but this one was my first love. 

It's also been so inspiring to learn how the community, the Greater Northside Management District, Pastor David Smith of the New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church and his wife, and people who grew up in the neighborhood have just embraced this cemetery and loved it over the years. When we were there last weekend City Councilwoman Karla Cisneros stopped by to learn more about the initiative. 

Another reason I love this story is because it's a testament to the power of social media. I wrote a blog, a descendant read it and now there's an association for the Westcott Cemetery. That alone is amazing and I can't wait to see what happens in the future as this effort grows.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I Lost My Dad in February

(I wrote this on March 19 and it's unfinished but I decided to go ahead and publish it. This is a first draft and un-edited. I just couldn't finish it....)

This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I've had to write in a long time or ever. I haven't been able to write it even though it's already been a month and a week since I lost my dad, Nicolas Casares.

Daddy on the day I brought him some chairs & set up a sitting area for him.

January started off bad. I had a really bad cold that seemed more like the flu on January 3. The doctor couldn't diagnose it as the flu but she gave me antibiotics because I had a lot of congestion in my lungs. On January 10 I took my dad to the doctor and he was diagnosed with the flu. They x-rayed his his lungs and gave him an EKG and told me that everything was clear. 

On January 30 I was back at the hospital with him because his cough wouldn't stop and he had a swollen arm. He had a blood clot in his arm and he had pneumonia. 

On February 10 they told us there was nothing else they could do for him. They did an ultrasound to find out why he seemed to get better and then he'd get worse. It turned out that his epiglottis was broken. That's the little flap that closes when you swallow so food and liquid don't go to your lungs. They told us that on Wednesday the 14th he would have been on antibiotics for a full two weeks and they couldn't continue giving him antibiotics because other organs were breaking down. It was hard for us to accept, but in addition to this my father had a DNR (do not resuscitate order) that said he didn't want to prolong his life with any artificial means. A feeding tube or any of those kinds of things are considered in that category.

We came to terms with all of this from Feb 10-14. That Wednesday, Valentine's Day, they gave him his last antibiotics treatment. On Thursday, February 15 he was moved into the palliative care wing. By that day he couldn't speak at all any more.

I cherish the days in between January 30 and February 14 when he could still speak. One of the last times he spoke to me I asked him if I was getting on his nerves playing old Spanish music for him and he said no that in turn it made him happy. When he lived with me he would tell me how good my kids were. I asked him one day if I was doing a good job raising my children and he nodded. 

He hung on from that Thursday until Sunday, February 18. We were there with him every day from that day on, playing music for him, singing to him, talking to him and trying to keep him comfortable. We asked them to give him morphine to ease the pain of the transition. We kissed him and told him what a good father he had been to all of us. I read him the Daily Text from his religion every day. As if my divine intervention, the texts had something that related to him each day. 

At one point I was alone with him and I cried. I told him I was sorry I had let him get sick and he groaned at me. I don't know if he agreed or if he was telling me no. I told him how much I loved him. I told him to dream beautiful dreams. I told him to remember all the beautiful things in his life. I told him to remember what it felt like to kiss a beautiful woman and he raised his eyebrows at me. I also reminded him of meeting my mother at El Rey theater in McAllen and that if he had never met her we would never have been born. 

The last time I saw him alive was Saturday, February 17. I had stayed in the hospital the night before and I didn't want to leave the kids alone again so I left late that night. The next morning my sister called me at 6:30 to tell me that he had passed. I debated whether to go to the hospital to see his body but in the end Miranda and I decided to go. I'm glad I did. I got to hear them play "Taps" and I watched them wheel his body down the hall and watched the military nurses salute him. 

My sisters and my nephew were with him when he transitioned to the next phase. I'm glad they were there by his side. They said he was listening to Kingdom Melodies, the music of his religion. So he passed on listening to the music of his faith.


Monday, May 21, 2018

I'm Paralyzed and I Don't Know Why

Well I kind of do know why. It all started when my dad passed away in February. I've never been much of a housekeeper or domestic person, but after my dad passed away I lost all desire to do anything, even the things that I knew had to be done around the house.

Somehow all I could handle was taking the kids to and from school and the bus stop, picking up my daughter from lacrosse practice, going to games, taking her to end of year tournaments, making the kids dinner, and working.


I kept planning to write a great blog, a tribute to him, I even asked my editor at Latina Lista if I could publish it there under the Padre Care column. The weeks went by, now the months, and I haven't been able to write. I wrote one short post about him dying in April but nothing more.

I saw this Hemingway quote today and it reminded me once again about the things I want to write. Yesterday I attended a book reading with the Mendez couple, Lupe and Jasminne. I was inspired by their words and I came home with every desire to write. I wrote the first drafts of two poems and I found myself filled with anxiety. I couldn't explain the feeling that overwhelmed me and I stopped. I wondered if I was destined to never write about that month, that week, that day.... But I know that's not true. I know I will.

As for the cleaning. I finally started a week and half ago on some things I needed to do and then I promptly cut my ankle open in a freak accident in a Walmart parking lot. I dropped a bottle of Topo Chico and it sliced open my ankle. I had to have seven stitches. That set me back but ironically it also pushed me forward. Now that I can't do things, like cutting my yard, I feel an intense desire to do them. As soon as the doctor clears me I'm cutting my yard and cleaning out my dad's room so Seth can move his furniture into that room.

Everyone keeps telling me to do things on my time but I think that three months is long enough and I need to move on with this business of living.