If you wanna feel better about your family, just read about ours...

Starring: a dad, a mom, a son & daughter-in-law, a daughter & son-in-law, a teen, a tween, 1 grandson, 3 granddaughters, 3 dogs, and a whole lot of love.

Family Story Pic

Family Story Pic


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Worth The Weight

A tiny hand full of people have seen my stomach these past 4 weeks and things were escalating to a fever pitch about Before and After pictures.  I won't call out the person who threatened to pull up my shirt Sunday at church.  You know who you are. 

I suspect not a word I write will even be read today, but here it goes anyway, as I conclude this Tummy Tuck series.  Unless of course situations develop in the future, but let's all hope that doesn't happen. 

This month of recovery has been full of things both expected and unexpected.  I knew going in that 'Official Recovery' was 4 solid weeks.  No more, no less.  When my doctor ordered, "4 weeks down" I thought to myself, "Well, he doesn't know me very well."  But apparently, he could smell my attitude a mile away because he followed it up with, "You'll do it if you want your money's worth."  Now, he's talking a language I understand.

My life came to an abrupt standstill.  I expected that.  What I didn't expect, was the opportunity to sit back and watch my family pull together...in every area not pertaining to my belly button, anyway.  And let me tell you, they successfully ran this place, complete with an entire delicious Thanksgiving meal for 20 people.  Did everything run like a well-oiled machine all month?  Of course not.  But it wouldn't have with me in charge, either.

As of Thursday December 12th, I have permission to return to life as normal and toss the list of forbidden activities out the window.  I followed the doctor's orders and for an entire month refrained from sleeping on my stomach, lying flat in the bed, lifting anything over 2-3 lbs, taking baths, work, exercise and sex...okay, maybe not all things were followed to the letter, and 3 days seemed appropriate. Let's not get ridiculous with our orders here, doc.

The hardest for me personally was not exercising.  Not because I felt good enough to do it, but because it required me to rely solely on diet for weight management.  I quickly realized how much I depend on the option to burn those extra eaten calories.  I can tell you right now, return to exercise will not be physically easy or painless, but I'll be relieved to retrain my body back into a strict daily regimen, because it would appear that I have a serious addiction to special dark chocolate chips eaten by the handful chased with a tiny scoop of natural peanut butter eaten from the end of a butter knife. Now we know.

I will also have permission to remove the Velcro girdle that day.  But, I won't be removing the Velcro girdle.  At least not yet.  It scares me when it's off.  I believe the phrase, Fear of freedom sums it up best.  That awful thing squeezed around my midsection like a boa constrictor has become like a child's security blanket and I suspect I'll need to wean myself from it accordingly.  Certainly didn't expect that.

According to the doctor, my stomach will continue losing swelling and changing for up to a year, so I've decided to document my recovery with pictures on a monthly basis.  I won't bore everyone with those each month, but I'll be more than happy to privately share them with anyone who's contemplating having the surgery or is simply interested in the continued healing process.

On a different note, I expected the extra blog readers tuning into this series out of morbid curiosity.  What I didn't expect was the flood of emails and messages in my inbox from women I both know and don't know, who asked questions and shared with me their testimonies of struggles, successes and failures.  Honored doesn't begin to describe each moment I open a message from a woman with the courage to confide their story with me, each one awe-inspiring in their own way.  I'm completely amazed with all of you and hope you continue updating me along your journeys. 

Back in 2002, at the age of 30, I stepped on a scale and saw the number 254.  I sure as heck didn't expect that.

Today, I turned 42.  My eyes have a few crows feet, there are laugh lines forming around my mouth and I don't even want to discuss the way my neck skin is starting to sag, not to mention my thighs. 

Fear not, I'm not on the slippery slope to a life spent on the surgeon's table.  I do not now, nor will I ever have the face or the body of a 20 year old and I didn't miraculously morph out of surgery a size 2.  But that wasn't my intent in having this procedure. 

Here we are in 2013 and for once in my life I'm not trapped in a 254 lb mindset.  For once in my life, I don't look in the mirror and see the pain of the journey hanging in the evidence of the loose misshapen skin.  And for once in my life, I look in the mirror and see only one scar reminding me of my surgery, rather than a multitude of scars reminding me of my past. 
Worth every bit of it.

With exception of some temporary crease marks from my tightly squeezed girdle, being slightly freaked out by my own belly button and suddenly having the option of bouncing a quarter off my new stomach skin, things are pretty much back to normal.

All in all, not much has changed around here and it feels pretty great to return to my role as a 42 year old, low-key, conservative mom and house wife preparing to send out our family's greeting cards.  So on that note: 
Merry Christmas...
From our normal family to yours!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuck In Roll

Part V:  Recovery, Week 3.

In light of how the first 2 weeks of recovery went, this 3rd week was downright boring.  (Granted, our standard of boring might be a little different than some.)  I traded my Vicodin for driving privileges, therefore, my life took on a slightly normal spin.  Which brings us to the main focus of week 3.  The horrid, thick, and itchy Velcro girdle. (Dramatic music here:  Duh duh duuuuh.)

I've made reference to the girdle, but when you have tucksticles, a girdle is the least of your concerns.  The girdle is mandatory 24/7 and I'm only allowed to remove it to take a shower.  It squeezes everything in, helps ever so slowly reduce some of the swelling, and overall gives me a sense of security.  (My new stomach scares the crap out of me half the time.)  But last week was Thanksgiving and I'd be seeing friends and family that spanned beyond our inner circle of 6.  You know what that means.  Pants would become mandatory.  And my children rejoiced.

I'm pretty predictable these days.  I'm either sitting in a recliner or lying in bed.  Sometimes I'm wearing pants, usually I'm not.  But regardless of where I am or what I am or am not wearing, there's one thing that sends them bolting from the room in absolute terror.  The loud sound of ripping Velcro.
I'm not the only one who fears my new tummy. 

Although I can unwrap my own stomach, I haven't yet learned the art of rewrapping it tight enough.  Enter Ron.  Again.

And that brings us back to pants.  I didn't own any appropriate ones that fit over my girdle.  That landed he and I in a Women's dressing room at Kohl's together where we could be overheard saying things like:  Lay flatter; This bench is too uncomfortable; Pull it harder; It's not lined up right; It's digging into my thigh and Quit complaining and let me finish! 

And to think my biggest worry was that Security might think my bulky shirt meant I was shoplifting. Silly me. 

Surprisingly, we were still allowed to make a purchase, which thanks to the big fat girdle included two sweat suits...so much for my pre-surgery visions of low rise skinny jeans and festive holiday crop top ensemble.

So how might I attempt to look normal while sporting an obvious abnormality?  I'll resume tanning, of course, because a fresh tan fixes everything. 

Flash to me lying face up in the tanning bed, completely unwrapped and exposed, with my knees bent at awkward angles because I'm still unable to lie flat and fighting panic as I realized I was trapped under a heavy tanning bed lid, coming dangerously close to screaming for the salon owner to break in and let me out. 

You see, sometimes our drama seeps out into the general public.

But recovery wise, we're on the home stretch.  Friday, a burning sensation began coursing through my ab muscles.  More of a post-ab-workout pain than the post-surgery pain I've grown accustomed to.  Then Saturday, things got strange.  I felt a spasm in my stomach that reminded me of something...the familiar feeling of an unborn baby kick from inside. 

Well, wouldn't that be horribly unfortunate timing.

As the spasms increased throughout the day, a word I learned way back in massage school crept out of it's long forgotten place in the attic of my dusty memory.  Synapse a junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass by diffusion of a neurotransmitter

Holy crap.  I think I feel my nerve endings reconnecting.  And low and behold, I'm slowly regaining feeling in portions of my stomach that were previously numb.  (Thank you, Lord.)  A new level of healing has begun.

My mandatory girdle phase ends next Wednesday.  That means Ron has one more week to play his sick little, 'How tight can I wrap her" game that leaves him clapping while I lay flailing on the bed like a helpless mermaid.

As for my appointment today, nine outer stitches were removed.  One long stitch that runs under the surface of the entire length of a precisely thin incision spanning roughly 18-20 inches between hip bones along my bikini line will eventually dissolve, if it hasn't already.  Just in case, I'm still forbidden to take a bath.

I guess my plan of Ron and I sitting in the fitness center hot tub together, with me wearing a string bikini, sipping wine disguised in a water bottle while I leisurely shave my legs will have to wait one more week. 

Just kidding.
I'm not taking Ron.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mother Tucker!

Part IV:  Recovery, Week 2.

Despite dreading the impending removal of my 2nd drain, I left last week's appointment pretty darn excited.  I was given official permission to take a shower.  If you've never been forbidden to bathe, or been a contestant on Survivor, you might not appreciate the magnitude of such a restriction.  And for someone obsessed with freshly shaved legs, it was kind of a nightmare. 
So a real shower.  That's a big deal.

Here's something you need to know about my family and my tummy tuck.  Zac, Aubrey and Kearstin want absolutely nothing to do with the recovery process.  From the pictures and stories, I'm sure you can't imagine why.  Caymen has been pretty oblivious to any of the major details.  She doesn't ask questions and she's never around during any of my detailed follow up care.  It's just a matter of fact that 'mommy had surgery on her tummy' and 'daddy takes care of mommy.'   As for Ron, he's a little too involved sometimes, and is entirely too fascinated with some of my post-surgical side effects.

For instance, there are areas of my tummy I've lost feeling from where they cut nerves.  I might regain that feeling, or I might not.  This is something that screws with my head.  When I scratch my stomach and I can't feel anything at all, I could very easily qualify for a rubber room.  So when Ron's applying Neosporin to my belly button stitches, that make me nauseous right now anyway, and he starts poking my belly real fast and saying, "Can you feel it?  Can you feel it?  Can you feel it?" while he makes obnoxious sound effects...well, that's grounds for divorce threats in my opinion. 

But back to bathing.  I wanted to take my shower Wednesday night, but Caymen started vomiting.  (Because we didn't have enough gross bodily fluids going on around here.)  So on Thursday, I couldn't wait any longer.  Ron wasn't home at the time, which had it's pros and cons.  Kearstin refused involvement on all counts.  After much persuasion, Aubrey agreed to help me rewrap myself into my Velcro girdle, but refused any involvement in the actual bathroom.  That left only one option.  "Hey Caymen...wanna help mommy?"  Sure! 

All she had to do was sit on the stool in the bathroom while I took a shower with instructions to run and get Aubrey if I "need anything."  Code for:  Tip over, fall out of the bathtub, and/or get overtaken with Heebie Jeebies at the sight of my own stomach, pass out and drown.  You can't think too far out of the box around here.

As I undressed in the bathroom, I knew I better prepare her for what she was about to see when I removed the wretched Velcro girdle..."A rubber tube is hanging from a gaping wound in mommy's hip...totally normal and nothing to fear, cry or vomit about." 
A necessary reminder to myself as well.

Here we go...*Rip*...For several seconds she sat there staring silently and then said, "Well.  Things just got interesting and disgusting all at the same time."  Out of the mouths of babes.  And little did we know just how quickly things were about to escalate.

My ten minute shower was absolutely glorious.  I quietly congratulated myself on being hygienically self-sufficient again while Caymen sat happily humming on her stool beside the sink.  I turned off the water, stepped out of the tub and that's when, without warning, my drainage tube ejected itself from my body and fell to the floor at Caymen's feet. 

In dead silence, we both looked down at it.  We looked at each other.  We looked down again.  She finally said, "I think you're gonna need to tell somebody about that." 

I looked at the exit site and saw a bloody hole full of stitches...and then I calmly and rationally reacted to the situation...all hell broke loose.  I sunk to the bathroom floor, gasping for breath and grabbing for my phone.  The only thing going through my mind was that it broke in half and the other half was still inside me, embedded deeply within my soul. 
(Cut me some slack.  Drama runs rampant here.) 

The doctor was sent an emergency page and immediately called me back.  He had some great news and some really not great news.  The great news was that the tube did not break off inside me and that was the whole deal laying on the bathroom floor. In hindsight, I remember thinking that my tucksticle was hanging a little lower than normal length throughout the day, but I never gave it much thought.  Anyhoo, there was no way for him to safely insert a new one and that meant I would not have to live through another drainage tube removal, but he wanted to see me Monday morning.    Because, the not so great news was that my body now had potential to collect fluid inside me, with no way to escape, thus requiring him to use a spinal needle to manually remove it. 

His voice took on that low, slow motion sound effect when he said, "S-p-in-al n-e-e-d-l-e."  and I answered in a slow mo, "Nooooooooooo..." right before my head thunked against the bathroom wall.

Enter 'Bed rest until Monday' because that was the best way to prevent my body from producing fluid.  Within the first hour of bed rest, I was convinced I could feel fluid building up in my lungs and by Saturday morning, I could hear gurgling because as it turns out, Ron isn't the only hypochondriac in our family.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful here.  God has been super-generous in providing writing material throughout this process, not to mention my life in general.  But as I lay in bed for 3 days contemplating what might happen with a needle on Monday morning, I prayed something I've never prayed before;
"Please Lord, don't make me write that."

Monday morning arrived, I lay on the exam table and in order to check for excess fluid, the doctor smacked my stomach, twice.  Not that I could feel it, but at least he didn't make sound effects.  No fluid!  As an added bonus, they were able to remove my belly button stitches while I was there and I've been upgraded from 'Bed Rest' to 'Take it easy, seriously.'  Whatever that means.

As we drove away I said, "I'm so happy right now." 
Ron replied, "Me too...those are some flat ass abs."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What The Tuck?!?

Part III:  Recovery, Week 1.

In all my pre-surgical research, there was one recurring theme.  The pain.
I tried not to dwell on that because
1.  I've experienced 3 C-sections and
2.  I'm a Tough Mudder twice over, after all.  What is this pain you speak of?

This is where you're expecting me to fill you in on the indescribable  tummy tuck pain, right?  Wrong.  In all seriousness, with exception of the moment I woke up in the post-op room, my pain level has been quite comparable to that of a C-section.  Certainly no worse, that's for sure. 

So here's a day by day breakdown of my first 7 days of recovery, including some things they told me to expect and a few they most certainly did not...

Wednesday & Thursday
The key to recovery is to get a jump on your pain pills on the first day and stay ahead of the pain game.  I took a Vicodin religiously every 3 hours for the first 48 hours.  That, on top of the pain blockers I'd been given during the surgery, made those first two days go smoothly.  I rotated between sitting in a recliner and lying propped up on my side with a pillow between my knees in bed.  The worst part was the transition from sitting to standing and vice versa.  Ron did the brunt of the movement for me and I just hung on.  A heating pad also helped a lot.

Bathing is strictly prohibited the first week, so on Thursday night, Ron put a chair in the bathtub and helped me shave my legs and wash my hair without getting the Velcro wrap around my midsection wet.  That's true love, people.

We'd been forewarned about the 2 drains that would remain attached to me for at least a week that Ron would be responsible for emptying and measuring the contents twice a day.  What they don't tell you is that they're two rubber pouches that hang from chords and dangle right at your crotch. 

It didn't take long for my family to dub those "Mom's testicles"....until the day Caymen overheard me tell Ron I need my testicles emptied and Ron replied, "Well, so do I but you don't hear me complaining." 

Caymen burst out laughing and said, "You don't have testicles, daddy!"
My drains were immediately renamed Tucksticles. 
Hopefully that solves any potential '1st Grade Show n Tell' nightmare.

Quick word of advice:  DO NOT weigh yourself the day after surgery.  I made the huge mistake of sneaking onto my scale, discovered 5 extra pounds and spiraled into oblivion.  Ron was furious and strictly forbid me from weighing myself again.  Turns out, it's just extra fluid and it comes off within 4 days...I know that because I continue to sneak onto the scale each morning.  Ssshhhh.

The itching under the girdle began, as did a slight rattling in my chest, causing me to feel the need to cough.  Anyone who's ever had a C-section knows that you'd rather gouge out your eyeballs with a butter knife than cough.  (Same goes for sneezing.)  I panicked about my cough to Ron.  His response was to casually inform me that my nurse in the recovery room immediately following my surgery told him that I should take deep breaths so that didn't happen.  I furiously asked him why he never told me that.  He said, "You were laying right there when she said it.  Your eyes were open, I assumed you were paying attention." 

Saturday & Sunday
Huge turning point.  I woke up feeling noticeably better and my Vicodin dosage was bumped to every 5 hours...which is good, because that's roughly how long it takes Ron to watch a football game on tv.

Ron returned to work.  Bruising began to creep down my left leg, but otherwise I felt great.  I washed my own hair, I shaved my own legs and I began eyeing my tightly wrapped tummy like a child eyes a birthday gift.  I mentioned to Ron the possibility of taking a quick peek.  And that brings us to....

I think the best way to explain what happened is to describe the scene Zac walked in on when he returned from work:  Ron, wearing only his boxers, was scrambling around frantically yelling at me to calm down, while I stood wearing only my pajama top, loosely hanging around my neck, looking down at my swollen (albeit smooth) tummy and swaying woozily back and forth unable to rip my eyes away from my belly button that is overflowing with black stitches that looked exactly like a swarm of ants from where I stood.  "Holy mother, wrap it back up...WRAP IT BACK UP!!!!!"

Sadly,  Zac was Facetiming with his girlfriend at the time.  A good reminder not to walk into our bedroom unannounced.  Another lesson learned the hard way.

Wednesday  (one week post-op)
We sat in the plastic surgeon's waiting room. Ron played on his phone while I sat with my hands stuffed into the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt, trying to hide my tucksticles from the other patients.  The silence was broken by a painful scream that came from an exam room in the back.  My immediate thought was, let's take the dramatics down a notch in there, shall we?  (Before you remind me of the scene from our bedroom a mere 12 hours before, let me remind you that my belly button looked like it was full of ants, okay?!?  If that doesn't call for drama, nothing does.)

Half hour later, I was sitting in my own exam room with my pants down around my thighs, my head hanging upside down with my hair in my crotch, face to face with my ant infested belly button, violently dry heaving because the Physician's Assistant had just removed my right tucksticle.  Let me explain...she unstitched a portion of my fresh incision and slowly pulled a 12inch piece of tube out from under my rib cage from the inside.  She was exactly right when she said, "This won't hurt."  What she failed to mention was that it would feel like she was pulling a live snake out of my freakin soul.  But hey. I didn't scream.

Stay tuned next week when they remove my one remaining tucksticle and the ants from my belly button. 

I don't see how any of that could possibly go wrong...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tuck It Up

Part II, The Surgery:

Wednesday morning, I carefully followed all of the pre-surgical instructions.  Well, almost all.  Certainly when they said 'No Make-Up', they weren't referring to eye liner and mascara.  That'd just be ridiculous.

A small portion of my thoughts were centered on the excited anticipation of realizing another dream.  But then I'd find myself on an irrational thought loop:  I'm going to be lying on a surgical table completely exposed to a room full of medical professionals and unable to suck in my stomach.  What will they do with my roll of skin after it's removed?  What if I'm under just enough anesthesia where I can't move or respond, but not enough to where I don't feel him do the surgery?  What if I throw up?  What if he puts my brand new belly button up too high?  Or worse, too low?  You get the idea.  Worst case scenarios are my specialty. 

Before we left, I shared some of my concerns with Ron and Zac.  Huge mistake.  What started out as a simple question turned into the great belly button debate that had me briefly contemplating asking the doctor to leave me belly button free until Zac suggested that no belly button at all might give the illusion of constant camel toe.  Well that settles that.

Before I could finish my inner shudder, Ron chimed in with, "I'm more concerned with how far your vagina might get pulled up."  ....silence....
I've tried to come up with an explanation for what he said.  I've got nothin.  Clearly, there was a massive break down in communication somewhere along the way.

We left for the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Springfield.  I need to take a minute to praise that place.  Ron and I have each had procedures done there and we have yet to have a negative experience as far as the surgical center goes.  It runs like clockwork.  The staff is incredible from the time you enter to the time you leave and everything in between.  They treat you like you're their only patient and this time was no different.  I highly recommend it.

We arrived at 11, by 11:30 I was in a room hooked up to my iv and at 11:45 the anesthesiologist walked in.  It was the same man who took incredible care of me during my C-section for Caymen and I'll never forget him.  Nothing like receiving a little pre-surgical hug from God, right?   He explained everything he'd be doing during the surgery.  I shared my concerns about anesthesia and he assured me he'll know exactly how far I'm under at all times.  I also told him it's extremely common for me to throw up when I'm coming out of anesthesia and the mere thought of vomiting after this particular procedure had me scared to death.  He calmed my nerves and explained the precautionary steps he'd take to ensure I wouldn't get sick. 

Then he told us about a patient he had on the table once who had a hernia removed.  Just as they closed his incision, he became violently ill and all of his stitches tore open. I said, "That doesn't really make me feel better."  He replied, "Oh, that won't happen to you.  He was young and muscular." 
Thanks, dude.  Does your wife call you Chuckles, per chance?

Around 12:15, my doctor came in to see me, reviewed everything he was going to do and then asked if we had any questions.  I darted my eyes toward Ron and silently willed him not to say vagina. 

Shortly after, I was being wheeled away from my husband toward a full abdominoplasty that could take up to 3 hours.  Mine ended up taking roughly 2.  I hope to learn more details of what my personal procedure entailed at my follow up appointment and share those in my next post. 

The next thing I knew, I woke up sitting at an angle.  The throbbing sensation in my abs immediately reminded me where I was and the nurse asked me to rate my pain.  I said the first thing that popped into my mind, "It hurts like a mother."  And with that, she pumped me full of morphine and I returned to a happy place where I could eat saltine crackers, drink water and go to the bathroom...because urination is the magic key to getting discharged after surgery.
 The nurse unhooked me from my iv and pulled up my gown to explain what was happening.  I'm wrapped tightly with a velcro girdle contraption that tightly squeezes my abs from just under my chest all the way down over the incision site.  Two tubes remain inserted into my incision, exit from underneath the wrap and are attached to rubber pouches that catch drainage.  She explained all the post-op instructions to Ron and then asked if we'd like to see my new tummy.

She released the wrap and through morphine goggles, I think I saw a smooth stomach and just maybe the most perfectly placed brand new belly-button a girl could ask for.  But she quickly wrapped it back up tight and we're under strict orders to keep it that way until my first follow-up appointment on Wednesday.   

By 3:30, I was being wheeled out to our van with a fresh carnation in hand as a sweet parting gift. 

All surgery concerns appear to have been unfounded.  I'm pretty sure I stayed asleep during surgery, I never threw up, I couldn't care less what they did with my roll, from the brief blurry glimpse I got, it seems the doctor can be trusted with belly button placement and on return from my first trip to the bathroom, I gave Ron a thumbs up.  Breathe easy, fella...everything below stayed put and I still pee sitting down.
Onto the next stage. 

To Be Continued...
*Please attribute any typos to the periodic doses of Vicodin I'm still under...as for any offensive personal details, that was probably all me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuck U.

The long awaited time has come.  And when I say long awaited, I don't mean the 9 months since scheduling the tummy tuck.  I'm referring back to 2001 when I made a goal:  "Lose the extra hundred pounds, keep it off and maybe someday I'll get a tummy tuck."  I've spent the past 6 years trying to prove to myself that I'll keep it off. 

There have been a few people who know my struggles with body image issues that have wondered how I can blog this process.  I'll address that below, but I think it's important to keep in mind that I wouldn't be taking 'Before' pictures of my saggy stretch marked belly without operating under the assumption that the 'After' pics will be a vast improvement.  Note that I won't be posting any shots of myself from behind.  I'm not completely insane.

Similar to my other recent adventures, I approached the tummy tuck with research.  It started with phone calls a couple years ago asking the simple question of cost.  Ron and I had an amount in mind that we'd be willing to pay, but everyplace I called was significantly higher than that.  Door closed.  Wasn't meant to be.  I accepted that and moved on, until last December during a conversation with a friend.  Her husband overheard me mention the prices I'd been told.  Having a job related to the medical field, he referred me to Dr. Troha, and gave me a rough calculation as to how much he charges.  Extremely close to our price range. 

*Regarding the cost of my procedure, it's not a secret, but I won't be listing it here.  Anyone seriously interested in that information for themselves can ask me privately or consult the doctor directly.

Next step:  My initial consult.  I no sooner got taken back to an exam room and pulled my gown over my head, then had to go to the bathroom.  The mental debate began.  Sneak to the restroom down the hall wearing an open backed gown or hope we make it through the appointment without him pushing on my stomach...cue the James Bond music as I crack the door open and peek my head into the hall.  Everything went according to plan until on my way back when I walked into the wrong exam room to find the doctor with another patient, gasped and darted back to my room, where I sat trying to look casual when he walked in. 
Hey stranger, long time no see.

The actual exam was simple and painless.  The doctor is really nice and patiently answered all of my nervous questions, although when I enquired about a partial tuck he could have at least acted like that was a good idea instead of quickly telling me that my stomach is the perfect candidate for the full shebang. 
Okay, he said it much nicer than that and explained that for the relatively minimal price difference between the two procedures, I'd be happier with the results of a full.  May as well do this right.

That was back in February and I left there under absolutely no pressure to schedule and was encouraged to take my time and think about it.  After much discussion with Ron, November was the best option in relation to both finances and work schedules.

I had 9 full months to completely immerse myself in obsessive research that started with Google, led to seeking out actual real life tummy tuck recipients, which eventually escalated to a twisted version of 'You show me yours and I'll show you mine.'  Turns out women are much more willing to show you their new belly button if you offer to show them your old one.  I also discovered that when people find out you're getting a tummy tuck, they tend to automatically look down at your stomach while you stand there hoping they don't look back up and say, "Good idea."

Most recently, my obsession turned to the dreaded post-surgical bowel movement.  I've had 3 C-sections.  I know what I'm talking about here and I predict many of you do, too.  That began the string of phone calls to the doctor's office and surgical center asking anyone and everyone their opinion on my idea of some pre-surgical laxatives, most of which were met with a resounding 'NO' and one who actually said, 'Oh Lord, No.'  
Take it easy.  Never hurts to ask.

I feel like I've educated myself on the topic of tummy tucks as much as I could.  I have no idea what the journey holds or what the end result will be, but I guess we'll all find out together.  Ron has been given free reign to document the process with the camera.  We should all be terrified.  Who am I kidding...I should be terrified. 

But I've done my part and now it's time to let the surgeon do his.  My post-surgical instructions consist solely of staying off my feet.  I'll be propped in a recliner, completely dependent on my family to care for each other, the house, the dogs and me for several weeks, not to mention they'll be single-handedly responsible for making the entire Thanksgiving meal for our annual Feast With Friends we host at our house the night before Thanksgiving. 
Things are bound to get interesting.

So in reference to the question as to how I can blog this, I think the bigger question here is, how can I not blog this? 

In the words of my doctor, "Once you hit that 4 week mark, you're free to return to a completely normal life with your family."

He obviously doesn't know us very well.

Until we meet again.
To Be Continued...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thou Shalt Not

We were long overdue. 

It's been months since our last major blow out worthy of a title,  reminiscent of the 'Worship Your God Fight of 2003' and the ever popular 'Shirt vs. Shirt Battle of 2012.'

As is usually the case, we didn't see this one coming, but in hindsight recognize the groundwork that gradually led to the 'Bible Verse War of 2013.'

Welcome to a peek into the Funny Farm, kids.  We call it home...

It all started at church when I happily returned from the coffee bar to my husband's side with my fresh cup of caffeine to learn that he'd (once again) volunteered me to pass the Communion plates and Offering bowls because in his words, "It's good for me."  Nothing against Communion and Offering, it's just that I always manage to make a mess of it from nerves (read: phobias) of being one of the few standing, while everyone else is sitting, and the subsequent hot flashes and shaky hands when one of my inner voices continually taunts me with the possibility of dropping the tray of 50 tiny cups of grape juice into someone's lap.  That's never happened, mind you, but it's quite common for me to screw up the pattern of passing and end up on the receiving end of my husband's disappointed looks when he gets stuck juggling 2 trays of juice and 2 trays of bread while I stand empty handed on the opposite end giving him the 'what did you think was gonna happen here? gesture.  The sooner he stops with this sick Public Humiliation Therapy, the better off we'll be.

Believe it or not, I still didn't see the fight coming.

We listened to the awesome sermon on living by faith and not by fear where it was pointed out that despite Peter's doubt that caused him to begin to sink in his attempt to walk across the water when Jesus beckoned him, at least he had the courage to step out in faith, unlike the other 11 who stayed sitting in the safety of the boat. 

Still didn't see the fight coming.

We've been wanting a black leather recliner for the rec room and I'd really like to have it before my tummy tuck next week, so I was thrilled when he suggested we make a trip to Value City Furniture after church.  We'd been in the store a whopping 10 minutes and all we could find was groupings of brown leather until I heard Ron yell, "Hey Shar!  There's a black family down there!"  I looked up to see him pointing toward the grouping of black leather chairs he was referring to, but unfortunately, there stood an African American family looking back at him.  We left empty handed.

Now I started to see it coming. 

So on the ride home when he tried to change the subject from what just happened, to the sermon we'd heard, my day's frustrations rose to the surface and I called him a 'Boat Sitter.'  Boom.

His defense:  "Nuh uh!  I've been faithfully giving money to K-Love every month for a year and a half without telling you!"
Me:  "Excuse me?  You've been what?!  Why?!?!"
Him:  *with deer-in-the-headlights face* "Um...because the Bible says that when you give to the needy your left hand shouldn't know what your right hand is doing!!"
Me:  "First of all, K-Love isn't the needy.  Second, I'm not your freakin left hand, we're supposed to be one flesh and you shouldn't keep secrets from your own flesh!" 

A hush fell over the mini-van.  Ha.

We arrived home and went our separate ways.  I went to bed, he headed to the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, he came into the bedroom and said, "Oh, by the way, your tummy tuck is sinful."


He flipped open his bible to Leviticus 19:28 and proudly read, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead..."

Well, then let me clarify a couple of things:
1.  I'm not cutting my body...Dr. Troha is.
2.  I'm not doing it for the dead.  I'm doing it for you and you're alive...at least for the time being...

Note to self;  Thou shalt not kill.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Answer To Your Question...

There was a recent uproar in the news when a young mother in seemingly great physical shape, posted a picture of herself wearing workout gear (or bathing suit, one might argue) with her 3 young children and the caption read:  "What's Your Excuse?"

She asks women that question as if she knows them and has any right to hear their answer.  But she doesn't know me at all.  So I'm going to take a moment to introduce myself to her.  I'm the almost 42 year old woman who at one point tipped the scale at 254 lbs and who has spent the past 12 years fighting the uphill battle of the genes she was born with and the love of eating she developed along the way.  I'm the woman who this morning weighed in at 160 pounds and 2 ounces.  I'm the woman who yesterday weighed 162 pounds and 8 ounces.  While we're at it, I'm also the woman who can tell you what she weighed on any given day dating back to 2005.  I'm able to do that because I'm the woman who over the course of her never ending weight loss journey, developed a nasty compulsive obsessive disorder with my bathroom scale.

You'd probably pass this particular woman known as Me on the street and think she could stand to lose weight.  Trust me, you're not telling her anything she doesn't tell herself every time she looks in the mirror, or worse yet, at the chart hanging in the doctor's office that tells her she's about an inch short of a "healthy" weight and frequently fluctuates 3 lbs away from an "ideal" BMI.  Thankfully, this woman's doctor is in tune with her and realizes he needs to continue reminding her to stop trying to lose weight because she walks a very narrow line between calorie counting and flirting with an eating disorder, thus qualifying her as the world's biggest anorexic...or as I call it, Gigantor-exic.

So this woman makes a day to day, (or in some cases, minute to minute), choice to ignore the incessant opinions of society, their charts and yes, even the mirror, to focus on a few facts.  This woman has been happily married for almost 21 years and together are parents of 4 responsible, healthy and thriving kids ranging in age from 6-20, neither of which has anything to do with what the scale says.  And as for that pesky healthy weight obsession, this particular woman requires a conscious awareness to view food as the sustenance from God that it is, rather than her source of comfort, joy or even more commonly, the enemy, while doing her best to choose activities that she not only enjoys but that challenge her ever aging and rebellious body whose parts, despite her best efforts, appear to be heading South for the winter. 

Unfortunately, this isn't about one physically fit mom who thinks she has all the answers.  She simply brought to light a bigger underlying issue.  This is about all women, myself included, who at any given moment choose the path of judgment, on and about each other, whether it be her choice of career, husband, mothering, politics, food, workout habits and/or physical appearance.  You name it, we judge it.  But, we need to caution ourselves not to jump to conclusions about someone based on the little to nothing we think we know about her, and when we catch ourselves in the act, need to remind ourselves of this:  You don't know her journey.  You have no clue what she deals with on a day to day basis.  You have no idea where she's been, where she's going, where God plans to take her and how He's going to use her.  Maybe we as women could begin encouraging each other and extending a little grace...that same encouragement and grace we crave when our own personal demons rear their ugly heads along our path.

So I have this to say to the mom who demanded my excuse.
This woman you might look at and label "overweight" is so much more than that.  This woman is on a journey with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the only one who knows her whole story because He's the author of it.  Everything about this woman starts there and that's where everything about this woman will finish.  Therefore, I have no excuse to offer you because I answer only to Him.  I'm sorry, but you're not qualified for the position of authority you placed yourself in by posting that remark aimed at other women, and in turn, joined the chorus of negative voices that already exist in our heads.  In your response to the public backlash, you explained that your reasoning behind the picture was purely motivational.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that your photo elicited an envy deep within for a body that's forever been and ever will be unattainable for me or that when I learned that you're a professional personal trainer, I rolled my eyes and fell right into the judgmental train of thought that I just condemned a couple paragraphs above.  But 'Motivated' doesn't ring a bell.  Had you only left the photo uncaptioned, (I'd still be jealous), but maybe I'd be a little inspired.  Instead, you got personal and threw down a gauntlet causing women everywhere to ask ourselves why we don't look like you and putting us in a position to defend the unique and beautiful women God created us to be. 

So come on, women!  (You too, hard-bodied mom we're all mad at right now.)
I have issues.  You have issues.  How bout we band together in a force of loving sisterhood so strong that our caption might read:

"What issues?"

Friday, September 27, 2013

Upgrade, my S

Most of you might know that when it comes to technology, I'm a complete moron.  I'm not too proud to admit it. 

A couple of years ago, Ron surprised me with an iPhone 4S for Christmas.  Right off the bat, I hated S.  I still can't say her name without it sounding like a growl.  Siri.

For 2 years I cursed her name but became completely enamored with the phone that housed her.  That is until recently when my beloved phone began screwing with me.

I'm sure you can relate when I tell you that the majority of my life is in that phone.  Everyone I know, both personally and professionally, have only my iPhone to thank (or blame) that I'm able to call or text them because they're under my contacts.  My entire list of massage clients, as well as my schedule of appointments is in my calendar.  Every Zumba song I've ever known and the separate playlists for each of the 3 locations I teach, are under my music app.  And every thought, brainstorm, quote and idea are listed in my notes for future writing projects. 
Yep, my entire career is in that phone.

So when that phone takes on a mind of it's own, begins rearranging my playlists, blanking out my schedules and randomly shutting down to "update" itself, I'll go to Verizon and trust that Tristan with the clipboard won't wipe away my identity and cancel my very existence on this earth. 

One should never be so trusting...and one should never put herself into the hands of a salesman with a clipboard on the heels of a celebratory half-price margarita from Texas Roadhouse.

His first question seemed simple enough as he pointed to my 4S. 
"Is that cracked?" 
I said, "Nope" as I beamed with pride at having managed to make it 2 years without cracking my cell phone, which must be a pretty big deal for him to even ask such a question.  I've also managed to bring 4 kids into the world. 

That's when he lowered the boom with his offer to buy back my phone for $200 in exchange for upgrading me to the iPhone 5S.  The part of my brain that hadn't been impaired with margarita smelled a trap, but before it could speak up, a voice said, "OK!"  Enter Chuckles...loving husband and designated driver.  Tristan's face lit up as he picked up on Ron's super-agreeable vibe.  I quickly interrupted his salivating and said,  "Wait a minute.  I need a guarantee that I'm not going to lose any of my information in the transfer."  He replied, "You'll get it all back.  Just don't come beat me up if you don't."  Aaaahhhh...Tristan with the clipboard has now picked up on my vibe, as well. 

Twenty minutes later, it was all said and done.  My 4S sat on the counter, wiped clean of my entire life, and I walked out of Verizon the owner of a new and improved iPhone 5S, which required the purchase of an all new phone cover, wall charger and car charger but was fully loaded...with everything except my schedule, my notes, my Zumba songs, and my playlists...for a grand total of $197.00, leaving a whopping $3.00 from his generous offer to apply toward our next bill.  As an added bonus, my new phone doesn't fit my Zumba speakers and I had to buy a $30 converter. 

Now I'm no math wiz, but by my calculation, Tristan with the clipboard owes me $27.00, 59 Zumba songs, and 15 story ideas, not to mention my dignity for all the massage clients I had to call asking when their next appointment was scheduled.

Thanks to Ron for spending countless hours at the computer, many understanding clients, my wonderful Zumba instructor and a decent memory, I have reloaded my 5S with as much of my information as possible. 

Bottom line; I'm stuck with this new S, I want nothing more than to go back there and kick his, and I already have a game plan for next time.

Go ahead and ask me.  "Is that cracked?"
You're damn right it is.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Good Sign

As you may recall, a mere 3 months ago, I was rather anonymous, which is exactly the way I preferred things.  Many of you who read my blog knew my name, but according to Google stats, many of you didn't.  (Shout out to my readers in Russia, Serbia, Sweden and the Netherlands...I pray I'm not your only representation of America.)

But on June 5th, I publicly introduced myself and I'm relieved to report that my world didn't collapse.  I didn't receive hate mail, knock on wood, and I continued living my days in blissful obscurity, busily filling my time with massage clients, writing and Zumba choreography, all the while excitedly anticipating the release of the first 2 books my stories have been published in.

That is, until it came time to do a book signing.  That's what you do in this industry.  You promote the book, you advertise it, and you brand yourself.  It shouldn't be an emotionally life altering event for anyone...unless of course that 'anyone' is someone who just 16 short months ago was crying backstage at her church, not wanting to do a 2-minute walk down a runway modeling an outfit for a charity fund raiser because people might look at her.  I'm super stable like that.

Don't get me wrong, God has brought me a long way since then, but when push came to shove on this book signing, I may have slightly reverted back to my insecure ways. 

Publicity became nothing short of a hyperventilating nightmare until one of my best friends, Mandi, finally took it over.  Probably as much for her sanity as mine, but seeing as she's the one that started this whole ball rolling one year ago when she said, "I'm going to start praying about your writing," I think she deserves a little taste of insanity.

The closer we got to the event, the obsession became about what to wear, because here's the simple truth about a book signing event as played out in my mind.  Either nobody would show up, or worse...somebody would show up.  So the wardrobe dilemma became, what does one wear to a public library to either sit alone for 2 hours or have people look at you for 2 hours?  Enter my other best friend, Lissa, who saved the day with a shopping trip that had me waiting unclothed in a dressing room while she ran around the store bringing me things to model.  Sometimes life is one humiliation after another.  I blindly trusted her judgment until a pair of 4inch heels made an appearance.  I stood firm on my NO...but then she threw out the word 'badass.' 
She always knows exactly what to say.

I spent the day of the signing with a team of highly skilled professionals, namely Melanie and Juliene, who polished, waxed, buffed, curled and transformed me.  An undertaking similar to the makeover scene in 'Miss Congeniality,' except when I walked out, the song 'Mustang Sally' didn't start up, although I did trip and almost fall down.  Probably because I was walking normal speed in my badass heels and not super-cool-slow-motion.  We can't all be Sandra Bullock, okay?

The feeling in the pit of my stomach as we drove to the signing was distinct and I knew where I'd felt it before.  I could picture the moment in the airplane as it hovered 13,000 feet in the air while I was inched closer and closer to the open door by the man who was strapped to my back.  I knew that day would end in one of two ways.  I'd either live or I'd die.  I wasn't in control and my only responsibility, as spelled out by the man pushing me toward the open door was, "Stop thinking and enjoy the ride." 

So when we pulled into the parking lot, I was overcome by peace as things were put into perspective.  This day would end in one of two ways.  People would either show up or they wouldn't.  I'm not in control and my only responsibility, as spelled out by my God who's not on my back, but rather whose got my back as He gently pushed me toward the door was, "Stop thinking and enjoy the ride."

Ron, Lissa, Mandi and a giant sheet cake kicked off what turned out to be an absolutely beautiful evening full of friends and family who came out to help this often-times-hot-mess celebrate a milestone on her path.  Humbling and overwhelming would be the words to best describe it.  Once again, God carried me over the threshold of a door that He'd opened for me Himself and then He met me in the free fall of the unknown that lay beyond it.

The only slight hiccup of the evening happened at 5 o'clock on the dot, when the signing was scheduled to start.  A complete stranger tentatively walked through the door and approached me.  Clearly, neither of us felt comfortable as she nervously said, "I'm here to meet Shari."  I could feel Ron's eyes boring into me from across the room silently imploring me to speak.  My cheeks felt like they were on fire during the silence that hung in the air before I finally said, "I'm Shari."  I fumbled through our awkward exchange as she bought books and tried to hide my surprise when she asked me to sign them.

When she left, Ron had a piece of advice for me: 
"Wow.  You're gonna need to work on your social game."
Hey.  I didn't burst into tears when she looked at me.  Baby steps.

Lissa:  Best friend, Stylist & Partner in Crime

Mandi:  Best friend, Publicist & Prayer Warrior 
(aka:  The Stable One.)
Chuckles:  Husband, Business Manager & Social Etiquette Advisor
Do you have someone in your life who cries with you in celebration because she not only knows your journey, but has faithfully walked along beside you since day one?
I do.  Her name is Susan:  Best friend.  Cousin through blood. 
Sister through life.
So what's your story? 
You know me, now I'd like to know you.
Please feel free to introduce yourself.
That means you too, Russia readers...all 78 of you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

El Shito.

After spending seven hours at a very crowded, very hot King's Island for Labor Day with Ron, Kearstin and Caymen, we stopped at one of our favorite Mexican places on the way home.

We'd never eaten at this particular location, but it was very clean, our waitress was nice, and we easily fell into our normal El Toro routine, which is to say, we placed our food and drink orders and then devoured baskets of chips and bowls of salsa at rates of speed that resemble your typical Man vs. Food contest.  We're a delight to our fellow diners.

I ordered my usual.  Pollo Fiesta.  That's fancy schmancy Spanish for boneless, skinless, grilled chicken breast.  Or as my kids call it, "Mom's diet food."  Maybe if I changed the name at home, they'd actually eat it.  What's for dinner, you ask?  Why it's Pollo Fiesta!  And they'd excitedly shout, Olay!  A mom can dream, right?  Anyhoo, Ron ordered the same thing.

You know that feeling in your gut that tells you something is terribly wrong?  You know, the one we're always told never to ignore, thus the phrase 'Follow your gut?'  Well, within my first two bites, I got it.  And I ignored it.  I WAS HUNGRY, OKAY?!?!  It wasn't exactly bleeding all over my plate or anything.  It was just tough with an ever so slight aftertaste you might describe as...foul...not to be confused with fowl.

By the time Ron took a bite of his chicken, I'd already eaten all of mine.  Don't judge me.  I was starving, remember?  I was literally sitting there silently convincing myself that my chicken had been thoroughly cooked when he said, "Does this chicken taste done to you?"  and handed me his fork.  I took the bite of chicken that looked and tasted exactly like mine did and said, "That's what mine was like."  He glanced toward my squeaky clean plate, did a double take and looked at me like I'd just eaten our family pet.  Then he said, "Chef Ramsey says undercooked chicken could kill somebody."  I thought, Chef Ramsey also calls people f-ing donkeys, so if you wanna live in that world, just say the word, Chuckles.  Not everything on reality tv is real, okay?!?  Why must I always be the voice of reason. 

He called our waitress over and told her our chicken was undercooked.  She apologized and immediately picked up his plate of chicken and then reached for mine.  I sat awkwardly staring at her and she said, "Wow.  You must have been hungry."

Well, it would appear somebody doesn't want a tip this evening because the only thing you're getting from me is the fowl I'm about to flip you by way of middle finger.

Fifteen minutes later, Ron was obnoxiously eating his thoroughly cooked and safe plate of chicken while I sat Googling Salmonella symptoms.  Diarrhea, fever, severe abdominal cramps, cold chills, and an incubation period of 5-72 hours.  I mentally cleared my week's schedule.

I'm relieved to report that I successfully made it through last week.  There was one close call Wednesday evening when I might have experienced a Psychosomatic symptom and frantically told Ron, "I think I'm having the Salmonella cold chills!" and he calmly said, "Or, and stick with me here, the air conditioner kicked on."

I've had just about enough common sense out of you, donkey.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mandi & Shari's Day Off

What do two friends with King's Island passes, free tickets to a Cincinnati Bengal's game whose kids returned to school do?  We plan a Mom's Day Off, of course. 

There was some initial concern as to whether or not King's Island was still open during the week, but Mandi checked the calendar, then replied (and I quote)  "They open at 10."  Why would I question the person everyone would agree is considered "the stable one" of our friendship?

The day began with our first fork in the road decision:  Do we or do we not 'pack heat?' (With the CCW permit, of course.) It took us about 30 seconds to realize we'd be walking to our car alone in Cincinnati after a 7pm football game.  No brainer.  The heat's comin with us.  We are nothing if not thoroughly prepared for every scenario.

Except for the fact that as we approached King's Island, neither of us noticed the empty parking lot, nor did we wonder why zero rides were running.  (My excuse is that my bladder was coming seriously close to rupturing.  Not sure what Mandi's is.)  We passed the first closed gate without batting an eye.  We passed the second closed gate without even a question.  We came to the third and final entrance and pulled onto the property.  It wasn't until we drove past the front of the water park when we wondered why we didn't have to show our card at a gate...and why there wasn't a gate.  That's the moment we met up with the King's Island Security Guard.  Or should I say, he met up with us.

Mr. Hottest-Security-Guard-I've-Ever-Laid-Eyes-On walked toward the car...in slow motion while the Ferris Bueller song, 'Oh Yeah' played in the background.  Or at least that's how it happened in my head.  My mouth was still gaping open when he said, "The park is closed, ladies."  Mandi, oh Stable One, held it together and confidently argued, "You're joking."  (Insert the sound of crickets filling the awkward silence as the 3 of us looked around the empty amusement park that lacked only the rolling tumble weed across the deserted parking lot.)  We listened politely as he spouted some lame 'staffed by teenagers who returned to school' excuse before he turned and walked back to his car.

Mandi, rudely interrupting the 'Oh Yeah' chorus that had mysteriously resumed, turned to me and said, "I should have shown him the calendar" and she pulled it up on her phone.  "See?  It opens at 10."
Me:  "Well, the teal blue square opens at 10 and the navy blue squares open at 10, but the sky blue squares don't open at all."

Then she wondered whether or not we should have told him about "the heat" even though he wasn't a real cop.  My stance on the matter is that there were two things he definitely did not need us to show him:  the fifty shades of blue calendar and our heat.

She started making sense again when she asked if I noticed his eyes.
Me:  "They were the deepest brown eyes I've ever seen."
Mandi:  "I thought they were blue?"
(She also thought King's Island opened at 10.  Holy crap.  Maybe I'm the Stable One.)

We drove toward the front entrance of the park to solve our next problem.  Pee doesn't just go away.  Certainly, there's a bathroom at the front entrance.  There was.  It was located directly behind the giant chain fence that comes down when they're closed.  We had no choice but to leave the park and find the nearest bathroom.  Unfortunately, Mandi inadvertently got us barricaded in a fenced parking area, driving against all arrows pointing to an exit that didn't seem to exist, all the while my urine hammered relentlessly against the door threatening certain escape.  She finally stopped the car and said, "Use that tree."  I stared at the tree she was referring.  The tree standing directly beside the busy road that I'd have to climb through the fence and cross a deep muddy ravine to reach.  Add that to the list of things Mr. Hotty Guard didn't need to see.

And so the day began.  What do we do in Cincinnati with a mere 9 hours to spare before the Bengals were scheduled to kick-off?

 We daintily enjoyed a picnic in the parking lot of an outlet mall.
One of us, who shall remain nameless, forgot to pack a sandwich.  Let's simply refer to her as 'The friend formerly known as stable.'

We drooled over expensive shoes and took awkward dressing room pics wearing badass jeans and fancy boots.

We tapped into our inner train conductor and bull rider,

before moving on to the fascinating world of Ikea.

Trying out the merchandise is strongly recommended.
I think.

We drove down to the stadium where Mandi successfully navigated her way around the complicated Roundabout...eventually.

We avoided the $25 parking and found someplace "better" for $10.
Too bad stadium rules required heat to stay in the car...but once we made it back from the long dark walk alone through the streets of Cincinnati after the game, we were totally fine.
Screw you, over-priced safe parking scam.

We found our way to the Yard House, enjoyed delicious food and got carded when we ordered Southern Belles.

I don't care if that's "policy"... to women everywhere, that's a compliment.

While waiting for the game, we refreshed ourselves with drinks from the fountain and sat on a swing overlooking the beautiful city.

 Once we found our seats, Mandi settled in to watch the game.  I settled in to watch the cheerleaders, but kept getting distracted by an annoying growling sound.  Apparently, anytime the Bengals do something good the speakers growl.  Someone needs to tell them it sounds exactly like that annoying Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Shultz commercial and every time it happened, all I could picture was that lawyer's head morphing into a tiger.

But back to the Ben-Gal cheerleaders.  It would be awesome if they actually, well, cheered...or danced...or did something.  I had high hopes of leaving there with some new Zumba moves.  Unfortunately, hair flipping and pom pom jostling doesn't burn near as many calories as you might think.

Then Mandi informed me that after a touchdown, we should be ready to jump up and celebrate.

FYI; Fist bumping strangers is acceptable; 
                                     celebratory Twerking is frowned upon.  
                                            Miley Cyrus ruins everything.

Ice cream cones for the drive home and our day was not only complete, but a success.  A closed amusement park will never hold us down.  We are nothing if not good on the fly.

Two women packing heat let loose on the streets of Cincinnati and we lived to tell about it.

So in case anyone is wondering: