Re-Editing, Re-editing, and Re-editing

For roughly almost all of last year, I did not work on my first novel at all. One, it was hard because COVID had all of us hunkering down and stressed out that trying to do anything that required a lot of concentration was just pointless. This doesn’t’ mean I wasn’t working on any writing projects. I did many blog posts that were dear to my heart (and a few of those that I started researching last year will finally be completed this year because, yes, I DO take my time with researching and writing these posts). Plus I did more research (general) into the 19th C for the other 5 novels (6 Austen variations because there are 6 completed Austen novels). Then I decided to do some research into Faerie Tales (because I had once scribbled an idea back when I was 15 that I do think may be fun projects). I also adopted another cat (Parker) as companion to Henry. Met a wonderful guy (and still going strong over a year later), watched a lot of films, read a lot of books. Gained a bit of weight (as did we all I imagine). But now, I am back on board with re-editing my novel. Egads!

Northanger Abbey: Our Hero Henry Tilney | Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog
JJ Fields as Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey). Courtesy of Pinterest. Also the namesake of my cat, Henry.

So, what’s it like to come back to a novel that once was all consuming, read it, and discover that there are parts you no longer like? A bit weird, to be completely honest. In a way, I feel closer to Jane Austen (who famously re-wrote her novels over and over again, over a period of years) and other writers, both departed and contemporary. We must, after all, be our own worst critic and our most fervent admirer. Re-reading my own novel is surreal. There is no other way to describe it (unless we want to say it’s a bit like schadenfreude, except we are taking our pleasure from our own misfortune). There are parts that I immediately know must be cut because they do nothing to advance the tale. There are parts that can easily be condensed and explained in a sentence or two instead of paragraph after paragraph. In some ways, I was much more into describing than showing, which is a fault most (academically trained) writers probably have. This is why we edit.

Jane Austen Manuscript Chapter 10
Jane Austen’ editing process. Courtesy of the British Library.

Both Cassandra and Henry Austen made statements in their later lives regarding Jane’s writing process. It should come to no surprise that she had outlines and knew how she wanted each of her noels to end (I do that as well). But like most writers, even she probably acknowledged that after writing and editing the first time, sometime things have to be changed because what you thought may have been a good choice (like a name or even an ending), just doesn’t work as well. It seems Jane was forever rewriting her novels into newer drafts, editing them, changing them, chipping way at the excess until she deemed them to be ready to be published. And that is all I am doing as well. Since the age of 19, I had outlined and had these thoughts of re-working Jane’s novels in such a way as to include a bit more history (because we are so removed from her time, we forget some of the most basic knowledge her audience had, we no longer have), but in a way that is fun and gives us the endings we want, but in a different way. Now, in my naivete, I did write a fan letter to Jane Odiwe when I was 19, wanting some advice from an author I admired about whether or not my idea would work. Now, not to besmirch Odiwe (for I do admire her for her storytelling and her love of Austen), imagine how shocked I was when her “Searching For” series started coming out and I realized my fan letter from all those years ago, when I had stupidly written her an outline of my idea, became her reality.

Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe
Courtesy of Amazon

Then, I read it. Well, not all of them, just the one regarding Captain Wentworth because it was the one I had foolishly outlined for her in that letter years ago. Dear Reader, hers is enjoyable, but nothing like mine. Other than taking the name (because I did give her the title of my novel as Searching for Captain Wentworth), and the premise of time travel (which, thankfully, I abandoned when I was 21 and opted for another route), I know my novel will not suffer nor (hopefully) be compared to hers. Now, I do not blame Jane Odiwe. After all, a fan letter from over 20 years ago (to which I never received any reply and please recall this was early in the age of emails and twitter did not exist), to which she may have read (or had been read for her and to her), probably installed a nugget of an idea that inspired her. For that, I am humbled because what she ended up writing is nothing to what my plans have become. While hers has involved time travel, and not much accuracy in terms of history, they are sweet pieces of fiction and, dare I state, love letters to Austen herself. While my concept is more about fleshing out some of the characters and giving a bit of background, with some fantasy and witticisms thrown in for good measure. The hard part, of course, is the whole getting of an agent. Because my original title was stolen, I had to change mine. And because it sounds similar to Odiwe’s, some agents refuse to read even the first chapter.

Inside Out in the Office: A Closer Look at Anger
Anger from Pixar’s Inside Out. Courtesy of Pixar/Disney

Does this anger me? Of course! I’ve also gotten comments such as I seem to write English fairly well for someone with my name (because people with Arabic names can clearly not understand the complexities of the English tongue), or I had no right to be writing Austen (because it’s only the domain of….whites?). I’ve even had agents state my novel is too ambitious (and too much like Austen), I should consider throwing in sex scenes instead of wanting to keep it sex free. The audacity of it all (because while Austen did not show sex and her novels are really sex-free, she did include romance and sensuality, which I have striven to retain). Having not touched it for a year, I am more determined than ever to edit it (again, for it seems to be the 6th or 7th time now), really make it as good as I can, then query agents again later this year. Yes, I expect I will have more rejection letters than acceptance. Yes, I still struggle with HOW to query successfully because no matter how many blog posts and tips (and hints) agents have given, none of them have worked for me.

3 Ways to Get a Literary Agent - Keller Media, Inc.
Courtesy of Keller Media

There is, of course, the more modern route which is to self publish. My boyfriend has self published 2 novels and 1 collection of short stories (and no, I have not read them). I will most likely self publish my poetry (literary agents for poetry is almost non existent and I’m sure the competition is even harder). I do plan on sending poems out to online journals and other publications to get some in print, because I do think having some of it out there would be a good thing. I have, over the past 2-3 years, have sent them to online magazines and journals with no response, but hopefully that will change. Of course, I have also, technically, self published a few poems here on this blog (and a few on Poetry.com-remember that old site? Those poems are long gone, in terms of online presence as I do have them written down). And I did get one or two published in my college days (and one in my high school days as well). So, I have no issues with going this route for poetry. But for the novels? Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned but I really do want to try and find an agent. I know so many books on Amazon are self published (it seems so many go this route and the offerings can be incredible to god awful all in one book that has to be split into 3 or more). And while that is an option, I want the agent for the simple reason that I want to see my books in stores. I want to see them in libraries. I want this little bit of myself to outlive me in print form (my immortality, as it were). Would it be nice to know that 200 years from now, my works could inspire others? Of course! I’d be pleased if my works inspired someone even 10 years down the road!

So, back to editing. That dreaded business for which others have worked with professionals. And yes, a professional editor would probably be very helpful. Yet I want to work the story to the best of my ability FIRST, then sending it off to an agent (hopefully). And then, if an editor is brought in, I would not mind. I see professional editors as that final step in polishing a work. My novel is still a bit rough, so to speak, and I want to be able to smooth it out and have that knowledge that I did so before even thinking of handing it off. Because what I know I can chip away, an editor may also chip away, or they may chip away more than what I think should be done. While I always am astounded with the stories coming out with people who wrote and then found an agent, and saw their book published all during the lockdowns, that is not normal when it comes to the literary world. For one thing, having these tales out and about make it seem as if writing a novel and getting signed to an agency is extremely easy ad those of us who struggle MUST be lacking in some way. This is simply not true. For a novel to have been written, queried, signed, then published in the span of 10 months tells me (as it should others) that the novel is probably very rough or very short and most likely (and I hate to write this), but not well written. Most novels take 2 years MINIMUM from when they are accepted to when they are published. Sometimes more IF one does not have an agent is is looking for one. In other words, this is not a fast sprint to the finish line. This is carving Michelangelo’s DAVID.

Why Tom Holland's Spider-Man/Peter Parker Is The Worst One Yet |  Moviedash.com
Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming (and yes, the inspiration for my cat, Parker/Peter Parker). Courtesy of MCU/SONY

Like any long term anything, patience, fortitude, and stamina is key. Now, with the whole COVID thing, I know my Depression & Anxiety have gotten worse, which means my attention span is not the best.

Red squirrel - Wikipedia
Red Squirrel. Courtesy of Wikipedia. And yes, my attention span has sometimes been THAT short.

HOWEVER, with things improving, and hopefully some medication tweaks, my attention span will be much improved and I can edit for longer periods of time rather than doing half a chapter a week. Naturally, editing on a computer screen is also not ideal, but I am determined to do this more choppy edit on the computer first. Then I may consider getting it all printed out and doing a more traditional edit like Austen did (and that I did my second time around too). So, I am basically trying to tell you, Dear Reader, that if you are also in a similar boat as I am, and struggling with writing or editing, take a break. Walk away for a bit. It seems a bit daft, but it helps. It truly does. I do believe not looking at it for abut a year has made it easier for me to make those bigger edits that the novel needs to be a better, more cohesive, story. We do, after all, tend to get very attached to our writings and it’s hard to look at it objectively when the struggle, the effort it took to bring it all about is still so fresh. IF you are doing a dissertation (as I have friends who are currently doing this), walking away for a long period of time is NOT doable. Sadly. BUT (and this is vitally important), walking away for a day or two does help.

Pin on Writing Superboards
Found on Pinterest

Witting is a process and when you first get everything down, like any parent, you think it’s a masterpiece and utter perfection. Dear Reader, it is not. And that can be very hard to understand as well as being very hard to accept. Now, I did do 2 edits back to back after I first finished the novel over 2 years ago, walked way, then came back after a mere 3 weeks and did, I believe, 2 or 3 more edits. It was not enough time for I was still too much attached to certain passages and characters to be objective. But now, having given it nary a glance for 10 months, I can be more harsh, more critical of my own failings and work. It’s much easier to remove one or two entire paragraphs, condensing it to 2 or 3 sentences when I am not so adamantly attached to them. What I am trying to stress, of course, is editing is hard. It’s a lot or work, and it’s not going to be easy. DO edit after you first finish. I found so many typing errors it was not humorous. But then walk away for a least 3-4 months. Then, come back, do another edit. Walk away for a few more months, then come back to edit it again. If I had known this, I do think this novel of mine would be at that stage here I can query an agent. But this is entirely my failing and one I know I will never repeat. Learn from this, Dear Reader, for it’s advice I know I would have liked to have been given and one I have yet to come across elsewhere.

As for Jane Odiwe, I wish her no ill will nor any regrets. My fan letter was so long ago that she probably had no memory what I wrote when she started writing the “Searching For” series. And I am completely at peace with that You have to realize that there are so many people writing Regency type novels out there that anyone who is able to stand out, even a bit, is a credit to those of us who are dabbling in this genre. While mine are more fantasy variations with historical underpinnings, there are variations out there doing “what ifs”, mysteries, sequels, etc. If you ever Google it, there are more variations, sequels, and themes on Pride & Prejudice than any other Austen Novel. And while I could have gone the route of doing P&P first, I wanted to focus on Persuasion because it is the novel (besides Northanger Abbey) that I love the most. Both of those novels are also the least adapted (film & TV wise) and have the least variations, which is a great pity, is it not? For we have Wentworth writing the best love letter in all of Austen and Tilney, who knows his muslin (and smirks quite often). So take heart. Keep typing or writing away (I wrote mine out first on paper, roughly a third, then switched to typing). Keep researching (if that’s your thing). And keep dreaming.

A Mary Anning Appreciation Post

WIN tickets to new movie Ammonite | The Senior | 2259
A Film loosely based on the life of Mary Anning released 2020.

When Ammonite was being talked about, I was excited. I am someone who has a yen for Dinosaurs (well, anything Paleontological to be perfectly honest), so a biopic on Mary Anning, the first [well-known] female Paleontologist, was excellent news! Then the premise was released and my heart sank in disappointment. Now, I have nothing against promoting Queer History and having it represented in the media (Gentleman Jack is a great example of Queer History done right), but I also feel it hurts the progress the LGTBQ+ Community when it is added for no other reason than to cause debates and it focuses the attention of the person on their genitalia (and what they did sexually or not) instead of their accomplishments. For example, Bohemian Rhapsody was touted as a Freddie Mercury & Queen biopic but shied away from any outwardly depiction of Freddie Mercury’s sexual preferences that weren’t heterosexual (notice the focus was more about his relationship with Mary Austin, with his band-mates taking second place, but very little mention was made over his male lovers or his partner, Jim Hutton). It would have been better, considering how much Freddie Mercury continues to influence the LGBTQ+ Community to show his same-sex relationships (both good & bad). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody. I was thrilled that they got Rami Malek to play Freddie because it matters that a person of color play a person of color. And while I was happy he was nominated, and then won, it wasn’t as groundbreaking as I had hoped it would be. I wanted to know what parts of his personal journey helped shape him and his music. I mean, we know this happened but I would have liked to have been shown it. However, Rocket Man showed Elton John’s sexual preference as being part of who he is and how no one who truly loved him, cared who he slept with. We saw that he had relationships that were good and ones that were bad. And how they shaped him to be the man we see at the end of the film. Plus, we saw how the choices he made, both good and bad, influenced his music and his future relationships along the way. It was a biopic done right (especially the way they handle the incorporation of the music because it just worked so well).

Elton John Compares 'Rocketman' With 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - Variety
Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocket Man (2019). Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Courtesy of Variety.com

Mary Anning did not have a sexual relationship with Charlotte Murchinson. They meet, briefly, in Lyme Regis and corresponded over the years. This film, instead, tries to depict these two as star cross lovers torn apart by Society. Unless we want to infer that Mary was a female rake who could easily seduce a woman, make her fall in love, and then break her heart in a mere matter of weeks, we have problems with this film. Instead of celebrating the awesome story of a woman who contributed greatly to the field of Paleontology (Anning) and woman ho also contributed to the field of Geology (Murchinson), Director Frances Lee decides to focus on a “what if” sexual relationship. Thus boiling down any contributions these women made to science down to their sexuality. It is a form of erasure, in a way. Instead of looking at these women as intelligent scientists, Lee equates them as sexual creatures FIRST with some inclination towards scientific thought. Anning found the first intact Plesiosaur skeleton (think Loch Ness Monster). In 1811, when Mary was 12, she and her brother found a skull, which was roughly 4 foot long. She went on and found the rest of the skeleton a few months later. This ended up being an Ichthyosaur. The Anning family were known to sell fossils to collectors and to museums, so for the children to have found a specimen would not have been unusual. But what is most unusual is by 1820-1825, it was only Mary who was finding and selling the fossils, her brother having been apprenticed out (the father passed in 1812). She uncovered a Pterosaur in 1828 in the cliffs of Lyme Regis and this was first Pterosaur found outside of Germany at this time (Pterodacytylus macroynx). Mary excavated a transitionary fossil between sharks and rays/fish called Squaloraja in 1829. Anning was a self taught Paleontologist, Geologist, scientific illustrator, and Anatomist. Her discoveries have been long thought to have inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Mary Anning was recognized as one of the 10 most influential women scientists in Britain in 2010. Yet his film does nothing but consider all of these accomplishments as being less than important than who she may have slept with.

Portrait of a woman in bonnet and long dress holding rock hammer, pointing at fossil next to a spaniel dog lying on ground.
Mary Anning & Her Dog (Circa 1830s-1840s) attributed to Mr. Grey. Courtesy of National History Museum
Mary Anning (1799-1847)
One of the many scientific drawings done by Mary Anning. Courtesy of UCMP.Berkely.EDU

Of course, the reason Francis Lee has decided to portray Mary Anning as a lesbian is solely based on the fact she remained unmarried and there is no evidence she had any relationships (heterosexual or homosexual), which must mean she was hiding something. By tying her scientific contributions to her sexuality, Lee has, perhaps unintentionally, equated any woman’s contributions to Society as being sexually motivated. It may come as a shock, but contributions to Art, Science, History, etc are not necessarily tied to what we do in the privacy of our own home. Now, if her sexuality had been an influenced, say, her scientific interests then yes, I would have applauded it being shown if done right.

Mary was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, and if the location sounds familiar, it was featured in Jane Austen’s Persuasion as the location of The Cobb where poor Miss Musgrove hurt herself. Lyme Regis (located in Dorset) is known for it’s plentiful shale deposits, which often contain fossils. Many tend to be small (like ammonites and other creatures), but sea creatures have been routinely found in the cliff facings as well. It was a popular (but waning) seaside resort town (Brighton having taken it’s place as the primary go-to area, with Bath being secondary). But, if you recall from any previous posts regarding Austen herself, in 1799 England was at war with the US. Her life, like that of Austen, was a life revolving around War coupled with the restrictions placed upon her by Society due to her sex. Because there is no writings (family or otherwise) to indicate she was ever in love, the conclusion must be she was a lesbian. The truth was she was one of 2 children (out of 10) who survived into adulthood. Her father died when she was fairly young and she and her brother, Joseph, took up the fossil hunting trade to generate an income. Odd how any man who was not married during this same period is not automatically labeled as being a homosexual (the hypocrisy of it all and yes, I am LOOKING at you Horace Walpole).

drawing of side view of a long thin skull with needle like teeth and a large eye socket
An 1814 drawing by Everard Home for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society depicting a Temnodontosaurus (originally Ichthyosaurus) skull found by Joseph & Mary Anning in 1811

Gera Lerner in her 1975 article in Feminist Studies asked how do notable women in history get written about, stressing the emphasis on how historians (in the 1970s) disregarded contributions of women overall: “Women of different classes have different historical experiences (5)”. Lerner also points out how women were viewed in the 19th Century were based on extensions of their normal duties. Education of the poor was seen as an extension of teaching children in the home. Which is still an issue we continue to face today. They “conducted their lives (5)” according to the male-dominated accepted role for them. Austen, being a writer, was acceptable because there were other women who were writing, and being published. Women writing primarily for women is fine because it doesn’t change the dominance of men in Society (especially since Austen’s brother Henry made the publishing deals, so while she wrote the books, he controlled hat happened to them). And yes, Mary Anning did fit into this role in her own way. She worked in a family run business started by her parents for extra income. Continuing this work as a means of generating an income after he death of her father would have been deemed as an acceptable position for a young girl and her brother because they had such a large family. Continuing to go this route when her brother was apprenticed elsewhere would have also been socially normal considering they were not part of the middle class, but were the working poor. Not being married, I have to state, was not an unusual occurrence for women at this time. Mary was one of 10 children. Her mother not only buried her husband, but eight of her children. Compare to the Austen Family, who had all he children survive into Adulthood (being middle class and having better access to food and medicine). Mary may have decided it would be better for her to continue to support her mother with fossil hunting than trying to find a husband and slip into extreme poverty (which was always the threat of any working woman, including Austen herself). On top of that, she had much less education than Austen and everything she did was primarily self-taught, whereas Austen had the support of a large family, that included members of the Aristocracy. Plus, I must point out that since this was a time of war, women outnumbered men so it would have been perfectly normal for there to be unmarried women over the age of 30 at this time (The Civil War in America produced a similar effect).

Sketch of house with two large front windows on either side of a front door and next to the steps leading up from the street to the door are two partially open cellar doors
June 1842 sketch of Mary Anning’s home in Lyme Regis by W. H. Prideaux and Edward Liddon. Courtesy of the BBC

When a generation of men have been killed, there will be a generation of women who will end up living alone. Mary died of Breast cancer in 1847 at the age of 47. She had not been welcomed into the Scientific community because she was a woman, but later generations have remembered and thought fondly of her. It is surprising that when she died, the Geological Society at that time spoke about her contributions, which is good, but also a bit sad it took her passing to get a bunch of men to acknowledge her importance to Science.But we must also remember is she had no male advocates who had the wealth, and influence, to see she was acknowledged better and more widely.

print of the Ladies of Llangollen
Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the Ladies of Llangollen, who were in a “Boston Marriage.” Lithograph by J.H. Lynch, 1830s. Public Domain

Mary and Charlotte meet briefly in 1825 ( a few weeks) and Mary meet her again in London in 1829. They corresponded as late as 1833, possibly up until Mary’s death in 1847. The relationship in the film Ammonite seems to be inspired by the relationship Mary Anning had with Frances Bell, who really did exist. But when Frances came to Lyme Regis to learn how to find and clean fossils from Mary, she was 14 and Mary 24. I highly doubt Mary saw Frances as a lover (unless we want to label her as a pedophile, which we don’t). Frances died young, at age 15 and Mary was, understandably, upset. Mary considered Frances one of her truest friends (possibly because they had a love of fossils). She may have considered Frances as her own personal protegee, seeing herself in a younger person. Instead, the film moves the actual time of the mid 1820s to 1840, but also makes Charlotte younger, naive, and incredibly stupid. It’s a slap in the face to any woman with a working mind.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2014-07-05-at-11.01.45-580x384.png
‘The Light of Science’ a satirical cartoon by Henry T De la Beche (1832) featuring Charlotte Murchison. Courtesy of Trowel Blazers


Charlotte Murchinson was born a full 11 years before Mary Anning in 1788 (but is portrayed much much younger in the film). Her father was a general and her mother was an amateur botanist. Charlotte married at the age of 27, which was considered fairly late in life, to a solider .They traveled Europe, where she made observations of the different geological features and botany. She had amassed a fossil collection of her own that was so diverse, leading men in the field of Geology would often use her specimens in their publications. While her husband focused on Geology (and became a member of the Royal Geological Society), Charlotte seemed to be more interested in minerals. She persisted and won the right to attend geological lectures at King’s College in 1831, which had been closed to women at that point. Charlotte was well traveled and her insights no doubt helped her husband in the field of geology She was no idiot as and was not the simpering weakling that she is being portrayed as. For any woman to demand to sit in on Geological lectures that are closed, and to have won the right to sit in on them, was no weak woman. She is also shown in the film to be incredibly stupid, bordering on extreme naivete, which is really gross.

Anne Lister - Wikipedia
Anne Lister by Joshua Horner, circa 1830. Public Domain

Besides Charlotte, Mary did have other friendship with women who were scientists as well. Mary Buckland being one such woman and Elizabeth Philpot the other. Instead of showing that Mary Anning had been surrounded by likewise minded women, Lee combines all these female friendships into one, but adds sex. I would have been much happier of the film was more about Mary befriending an unknown woman (a fictional character, if you will) and teaching her how she did what she did, or explaining how she hunts fossils, and develop that into a relationship (and possible Boston Marriage). It would have been more interesting, for me at any rate. Instead, we get a rough and not very feminine Mary, pissing in full view of the public, wiping her hands on her skirt, then handing a Cornish Pasty to Charlotte. So, Mary is being portrayed as “Butch” to counter the femininity of Charlotte (which is a sad troupe). She would ever have relieved herself in that way-she would have gone off a bit for privacy as any of us would do. Plus, there is an ocean, consisting of water, right there, to wash her hands off. Literally a body of water. And since she lived in Dorset, a Cornish Pasty IS NOT appropriate. Hand held eat pies did exist, but do be so specific as to a Cornish Pasty-just no. And let us also address that for a seaside town that was known to have a population of Black people, nary a one is ever seen. Lyme Regis was a popular seaside resort that was replaced by Bath (then Brighton), which means people from all classes (and yes, this includes Black people) lived there year round since before 1800. Especially since it was tied to Sailors and the Navy, which employed many Black people at this time. But, I must not forget that the director of this film is a man, who views the women in the film with the gaze of men. And if we want to portray her as a lesbian, then I would have no issue with it IF it were done with a little more finesse. Mary spent more time with Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Buckland than Charlotte. If a relationship would have occurred, I would have found it much more believable to have been either of these women than Charlotte because they were there longer, and also were the stronger relationships in Mary’s life. They even could have, because Mary really was found of Frances in real life, aged Frances up to be in her twenties and used that as a passionate, real-life relationship which ended in Frances’ death at a young age from something like pneumonia. Because that feels more true to the person who was Mary Anning, but also more true historically. And I would have had the guts to not only show Lyme Regis as being diverse, but would have made Frances not white. But then, I am wanting to make the film for women, and women of color, and not for the male gaze.

Out of the deep | Oxford University Museum of Natural History
A Plesiosaur hunting. Courtesy of Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Christobel Hasting stated “Note the wide eyes, the tumbling ringlets, the peaches-and-cream complexions of the protagonists. Then look at the narratives that posit same-gender sexuality as a source of inevitable pain and struggle” as a reoccurring theme in all Lesbian period dramas. Hastings, in this article (and it’s well-written, I highly recommend it) also discusses the erasure of POC from these pieces, which also erases them from the narrative overall. Now, when I first wrote and published this blog, I did not include any commentary on this and it is clearly a mistake on my part and I fully take on this blame. I truly wanted to focus on just how awful they portrayed Mary Anning (and Charlotte) that I neglected to think how it might be perceived to use a piece discussing the erasure of people of color and not address it. And yes, I should have and that is why I am editing this to include this discussion. Because, Dear Reader, I am not perfect and I want to own up when a mistake has been made (I also had to delete a comment and my response because the a troll trying to imitate another person then sent some truly awful email to me via this blog and that’s just vile and caused some serious metal health issues for me).

While I praise Gentleman Jack for its honesty, it IS one of these white period dramas written. But here Gentleman Jack succeeds it’s (dramatized) the real life story of Anne Lister and her relationship with her wife. Now, of course, the series could diversify the cast (and I would love it) because there was diversity in England at that time. It would be an easy thing to start to include and I think many of us would be thrilled by this. Now, previously, I had not included any commentary on that in this originally, but that was clearly a fault of mine because we should also address the erasure of any person of color in this narrative of period drama. As I am also aware that it’s an area that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Its perhaps easier to make Queer History more palatable when the primary target audience are white conservatives (and possibly male). And hey, I get it. It’s easier to drum up sympathy for two white women in early Victorian England, then, say, two women in India or Africa or South America. Because it doesn’t seem to matter, which is really sad. Plus, setting it in the mid 19th C is all too easy. It’s a bit lazy, to be perfectly honest. Most view the 19th C as being an era of sexual repression to begin with, so tossing in any aspect of LGBTQ+ references makes an easy sell. So, yes, this film also lacks basic diversity. And I mean basic. Most period dramas showcasing the 19th century seem to leave out any person of color unless it revolves around the Civil War. Now, Hasting’s article went onto state that this way of filming period Lesbian dramas is done for a reason. That reason being filmmakers are pandering “to the male gaze, and preserve the patriarchal status quo.” Which is something I was probably aware of, but hadn’t really considered that this one way of pandering had to dominate everything at this point in time. Maybe because I had thought with more diverse filmmakers, things would get better (they are, but doesn’t it seem to take forever?). Because the 19th C lesbians are always white. There are always pretty ringlets, big petticoats, soft pale skin. And that seems to be a setting for the male porn gaze than anything else (because, let’s face it, minority representation in LGBTQ+ films is extremely rare to non-existent). After all, we are still dealing with dick jokes in the MCU (so, perhaps filmmakers are catering to teenage boys?)

COVID-19: Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is postponed | Lyme Regis Town Council
Ammnites on Lye Regis Coast. Courtesy of Lyme Regis Town Council

Now, for some reason (well, I know WHY but it’s still irksome) a person, using the name of someone who commented, then decided to send me emails that were truly vile. And I mean downright nasty that it made me cry and not sleep for the past three days. Right now, after spending 40 minutes crying in the shower, I am very close to losing it. And yes, that is scary. Friday is going to be an extremely hard day for me. I am gong to make a police report because of a post I made last year regarding John Ortberg. And yes, I am stressed out about it. There are things in the blog I did NOT make public because some of it is just too painful. When I made the decision to have the knowledge go public earlier this year, I knew there would be a backlash. I knew it. I had dealt with some of it last year, and even some the year before. But now, it’s not something anyone can be prepared for. I’ve gotten emails stating that I am a liar. I’ve had weird comments made on blog posts from when I first started (like 2 years ago) show recently. And the emails-they are the hardest. Now, wisely, if someone emails me off of this blog, it goes to a inbox on this site and sends a copy to my personal account. o, unless I respond from my personal account, you don’t have access to my email address (it’s worth paying the $100 yearly fee for this feature). But the emails range from sending me porn links, to accusing me of being a Qanon conspiracy theorist, to commenting on my whiteness (and not being a person of color), to things that are really not meant to see the light of day. Ever. And it’s currently hard for me to function. I have panic attacks. I am severely depressed. I cannot get my antidepressants because the doctor won’t write a new prescription unless she sees me AND she cannot see me for 3-4 months. I cannot work BECAUSE of the PTSD and Panic Attacks. So, fair warning, if you comment on this post, or email me, do not be shocked if it takes a long time for me to approve the comments. And this is me, the writer removing her mask, saying hey, right now I am really not OK. But I am trying.

2.3 million project for the Cobb at Lyme Regis- or it could face collapse |  Bridport and Lyme Regis News
The Cobb at Lyme Regis. Courtesy of Bridportnews.co.uk

“And sometimes, I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in”

Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility)

Resources

Britiaicca.com

Unicversity of CAlifornia-Berkely (Paleontology Department)

Placing Women in History by G. Lerner. Feminist Studies, VOl 3 Issue 1/2 (Autumn 1975)

Introduction to Sociology, Chapter 12 (Gender, Sex, and Sexuality). Available on Opentextbc.ca

Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender by Mari Mikkola (2008 & 2017). Available on Plato.Standford.edu

Vanity Fair review of Ammonite (09/2020)

True History of Ammonite (Smithsonian Magazine August 2020)

LGTBQ+ Films: “It’s time for Lesbian love stories that aren’t white period dramas” by Christobel Hastings for Stylist.co.uk

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oceansofkansas.com

Lymeregistowncounsil.gov.uk

Newspapers.com

Gastric Sleeve: One Year Reflection (well, close enough)

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May 14, 2019 was the day I had my Gastric Sleeve Surgery. This was performed at Good Shepherd Hospital by Dr. C (who is awesome). Like many people who struggle with their weight, this was not an easy decision. Like I had mentioned in my previous blog post (New Year: Who Dis), I researched and really looked into what any weight loss surgery would entail. My mother, years earlier, had lap-band done (different doctor from mine). And while, at first, it seemed to be working (as in, she lost weight), too many issues started coming up and she easily regained the weight (plus more) not to mention having terrible heartburn and other issues (such as vomiting on an empty stomach-Dr C. removed her lap-band this year). Lap-band was and still is touted as an acceptable weight loss surgery. There are still doctors who are willing to perform it and places that still consider it as being viable.

Lap band

Image courtesy of Tijuana Baritrics

The pitfalls, however, are that lap-band has a high failure rate. According to NCBI, the failure rate is 13.2% at 18 months. That percentage goes up dramatically as time from when it was put in continue (to a whopping almost 40% at 7 years). Gastric Sleeve (and Bypass) have a failure rate of less than 5% at 2 years, with 16% at 7 years. Now, like I had mentioned in a previous blog, “failures” for Gastric Sleeve range from gaining 15 pounds to having a baby. Yes, a woman getting pregnant after having this surgery is considered a “failure” by every study that I have been able to come across and read, which I find ironic and very misogynistic considering that fertility issues (including PCOS) are considered acceptable reasons for having these surgeries. And anyone who has seen a pregnant lady can attest that most women gain at least 15 pounds, if not more, during a normal pregnancy. I feel that pregnancy after surgery should be seen as a success, not a failure. Also, gaining muscle mass (muscle weights more than fat), is also a failure. We really should, as a society, rethink the whole BMI chart as it doesn’t take into consideration body structure. The Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania) stated in an article from 2013, that the BMI is inaccurate because it doesn’t take into consideration body mass, body shapes, bone density, overall body composition, and the basic differences between the sexes as one chart is used for both sexes, meaning that the height and weight for a petite white female will not work for a petite white male.

BMI charts are bogus: real best way to tell if you're a healthy ...

So, what does this mean? Well, any good doctor will use is as a guideline, not as absolute truth (as in you MUST weight this amount). Especially when one keeps in mind the BMI chart (yes, the standard one) was invented/complied in the 1830s. Diets (as in what we eat), activity, and also heights of people have drastically changed in the nearly 200 years since it was created. There are variations of it, tailored for men, women, and children, but the basic data used still stems from this initial chart from the 1830s. See why so many of us get frustrated by this chart? Now, in all honesty, at 330 pounds and being 5’8″, I was obese. I was extremely obese. I knew it at the time and I accept this fact. But I do find it laughable that according to the chart, a healthy weight for me would be between 120 and 150 pounds. Based on my bone structure, and very wide hips, that weight range would make me look sickly. Not to mention that I would be, in Dr. C’s opinion, underweight and unhealthy. Now, my goal weight is between 165-180 (I’m shooting for about 170-175). The chart states that this weight range makes me overweight. Now, keep in mind that insurance companies still adhere to this chart and they also compile statistics for those percentages when it comes to failure and success rates of surgeries. So, I would be considered a “failure”, yet my doctor would consider me a success (FYI, he currently hails me as a success because losing over 50 pounds in the first year is a success in his eyes). So, that’s where I do take any failure rate with a slight grain of salt. Now, lap-band does have a high failure rate only in that there are so many health issues which arise with it. These range from the basic improvement of the person’s health (i.e., losing weight) to increase of heartburn symptoms and even a twisted band (yes, those things can twist and shift about in there). This doesn’t mean every lap-band surgery is going to fail nor do I believe every single one will fail. My personal opinion, based on seeing how it affected my mother and from research, the cons (such as increased heartburn, vomiting on empty stomachs, etc) outweighs the pros (weight loss). To me, this made lap-band surgery a non-viable option (and one my surgeon doesn’t do nor recommend because of these issues).

Now, Gastric Sleeve & Bypass have both fans and haters too. There are people who have written about the failure of their surgery and why they regret it. And I get it. This is not an easy decision to make and it’s not easy changing how you not only look at food, but how you eat and cook. And I do not want anyone to think I am bashing or poking fun at those who do regret this. I feel for them and I wish they had the support I have been lucky (and I feel very lucky) to have had in terms of research and making this decision. I only want to point out a few alarming issues some of these people have in common so those who read this and have questions, can be better informed. One such trend is the belief their life is going to drastically change like some pseudo Hollywood film makoever.

Everything We Know About a Possible Princess Diaries 3 Movie | E! News

Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries

The sad reality is that most of these miraculous Hollywood film makeovers are simply excellent makeup and costume designers who can transform a relatively attractive person (usually white and female) into being slightly to overly unattractive, in order to have a “makeover” in the film and be revealed as drop dead gorgeous. That’s not real life and while I enjoyed The Princess Diaries, I did cringe at the obvious ugly ducking to swan troupe being used. This troupe is overused and harmful to our Social Psyche. Another trend is the need to rush into having this surgery by flying abroad (generally Mexico) and having it performed there due to cost. The average cost of Gastric Sleeve & Bypass is $23-30K, Lap-Bands average around $14-16K. Compare this with the low (incredibly low) cost of $3-6K for Sleeve or Bypass and $2K or less for Lap-Band. Some sites state they can perform surgery (after receiving payment) anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. So, if one is desperate and feeling like they HAVE to do this, waiting a month does seem like a better option than waiting 6 months to a year. I get it too because once I made the decision to go an speak to a surgeon, I really couldn’t wait to have the surgery. Yet I am so glad I was forced to wait. And I waited abut 2 months more than I should have due to a hold up (waiting on the psychiatric letter took 2 months longer than expected). Yet I don’t regret this whatsoever. I researched for at least 3 months BEFORE going to see Dr. C and continued to research after meeting him. I have two binders full of information (one was given to me by the surgeon, the other I started and is full of recipes and meal ideas, plus any information I deemed important to have on hand this way). So, while I was more prepared than most, I still wasn’t fully prepared.

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So, why Mexico? The main factor is probably based on finances. The low cost of surgery in Mexico is meant to draw in people who are desperate to lose weight. And unlike the standards set by insurance companies here in the US, Canada, and Europe, Mexican Bariatric centers will take anyone-including those who wouldn’t qualify under insurance guidelines. What? Yes, anyone. There are stories and photos of men and women who underwent surgery to lose as little as 20 pounds with no underlying medical problem. People who wouldn’t qualify because they didn’t have any of the main health issues which would deem such a surgery as being medically necessary. These factors (and this is not a definitive list, but the general accepted ones) are Diabetes (Type 1 & 2 though there seems to be more Type 2 who undergo it than Type 1), PCOS, High-Blood Pressure, Sleep Apnea, Asthma/COPD, Acid Reflux Disease, limited mobility issues, and other Endocrine related diseases. This is by no means all the health factors by which insurance companies will approve of such a surgery, but these are the basic ones that tend to help build a case for surgery. Which makes it excessively frustrating when people are choosing to undergo surgeries (most seem to get lap-band or sleeve in Mexico) to loose 20 pounds or less. Listen, these surgeries are not meant for those who just want to shed a few pounds. It shouldn’t be seen as a “quick fix” nor an inexpensive option to constantly yo-yo dieting. These surgeries are meant to help those of us who cannot (and I cannot stress this enough) lose weight through diet and exercise alone. 

Do Different People Really Need Radically Different Diets?

Image courtesy of forksoverknives.com

I’ve been on a diet practically all of my life. I recall at the age of 8 or 9 a doctor recommending my mom start me on a diet as I was a bit too chunky for my age and height (thanks to that blasted BMI chart). I have been involved with Weight Watchers at least 3 times in my life, Jenny Craig, Overeaters Anonymous, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Alli (those pills you can by OTC), Slim Fast, Nutrisystem, HMR, Sensa, Mediterrean Diet just to name a few. I have had doctors lecture me about my weight. I have had nutritionists lecture me about not eating well. I could not lose it by normal means. This doesn’t mean those programs, diets, etc don’t work because I know people who are very successful on WW, and I know people who are doing well on Noom. There are people who do well on Keto and others who have been successful using Jenny Craig. The simple truth is not one plan will work with everyone and not everyone can lose weight by traditional means. We are all individuals and are all diverse. And that should be OK. As a society, we need to accept that there are other factors which lead to obesity and not just eating too many calories. 

So, yes, I do have an issue with those who seek out surgery because they think this is a quick fix and an easy way of shedding a few pounds. I take a modicum of malicious glee in how many of them regret undergoing the surgery in as little as a few hours post-op. Now, having one’s stomach butchered, not stitched correctly, and other glaringly obvious bad surgical errors (due to the rapid turn around in Mexico as they are in the business to make money, not provide healthcare) are issues which enrage me as no one should have to endure botched up surgeries. That, sadly, is a case of getting what you paid for. Surgeons in Mexico do not have to undergo the strict training (and ongoing training) that exists elsewhere. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t reputable Bariatric surgeons in Mexico. There are people, with the underlying medical conditions, who go to Mexico and have decent outcomes. It’s a case of not knowing who is going to be reputable and who isn’t. This is why I do think, until stricter standards are installed in places like Mexico, one should look for a good surgeon that is covered by their insurance. And in case people comment on here that this doesn’t help those on Medicaid and Medicare, I regret to inform you that both Medicaid and Medicare do cover this surgery as well. They use standard guidelines as to what medical conditions would qualify and go from there. 

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For those who do have medial issues, one alarming reason they flock to Mexico is they don’t want to follow the insurance (and surgeon’s) prerequisites for having the surgery. Like any basic College course, one cannot sign up for English 201 if one hasn’t had the 101 course. Think of these requirements as building groundwork. One such requirement before approving the surgery, which seems to be prevalent, is being enrolled for a minimum 6 months of physician guided diet & nutrition program. Basically, you see a nutritionist affiliated with the program or hospital every month for six months-a whopping total of 6 visits minimum. And most doctors (Dr. Nowzaradan on My 600 lb Life, for a prime example), will expect a certain amount of weight to be lost prior to getting approval. It seems cruel but there is reason for this: they want to see if you can follow directions. Many people struggle with following basic rules.Now, I have been fairly good before and currently, but I do screw up.

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One such rule I had was no soda (pop depending on the region of the US). I had my last Coke Zero in October 2018. I have not had any since. Now, if I let one go flat, I probably could tolerate it. I have bought these packets (sugar free of course) which promise to mimic the taste of soda (Root Beer, Cherry Cola) when added to water. Instead, I added the root beer (along with some root beer extract-yes, it exists) to a vanilla protein shake (and ice). It isn’t exactly like a root beer float, but it tastes similar and it satisfies that particular craving. Now, if Vernor’s could come out with a similar powder, I would be most happy (the mark of a true Michigander is whether or not you can tolerate Vernor’s Ginger Ale). 

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 I had been seeing a nutritionist for Diabetes previously and had this requirement done (in a year, I had gone from 330+ to around 300, which helped prove to the insurance company that I could adhere to a plan and was willing to change to improve my health). I was lucky that I had this recent medical history already in place. At the same time, my A1C numbers kept going up, and medication was changed from Metformin (which made me sick to my stomach the entire time I was on it, which was years) to insulin and Victozia. No lying, but the thought of daily injections scared me until I did it for a few times and felt better. While I was feeling better, I grew increasingly frustrated as the insulin went from 15 to 30 to 60 to 80 units in the span of a year. While a side effect of insulin is weight gain (and weight loss with Metformin), the opposite actually occurred in my case. My weight went down as I grew to be more active and eat a healthier diet. Yet instead of the weight loss improving the A1C, it kept getting worse. I am one of those rare people that cannot tolerate Metformin, can tolerate insulin and yet be insulin resistant at the same time (insulin resistance means you require more and more insulin to keep blood sugars in check). 

Causes of Diabetes - What Causes Diabetes?

diabetes.co.uk

So yes, I really did need this surgery.  I didn’t want to keep having to increase the insulin in order to keep it under control. My greatest fear was having to take 100s of units a day to stay alive. A unit is the standard way of measuring insulin and I have not found any information that this is referred to as anything else. The average insulin pen (regardless of kind) holds 300 units. I don’t know how much a vial holds, but I suspect it’s a similar amount. Yet this is a digression of the tale. I was on 80 units at the time of surgery (along with 1.8 units/dosage of Victozia), which means I needed 3 insulin pens a week. And yes, it was frightening to be on such a high dose. But, within 2-3 months of having the surgery, I was off of insulin completely. My last A1C was at 5.9 (it was 10.3 before surgery).  I currently am only on the 1.8 dosage of Victozia and I am hoping that will lessen with time. Even if I am ever completely off medication for Diabetes, I will always have to check my blood sugars, have my A1C checked, and be careful of what I eat for the rest of my life. And you know what, I don’t mind a bit.

APOD: 2018 October 2 - Supernumerary Rainbows over New Jersey

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This surgery has given me a new lease on life. I can easily keep up with a rambunctious not yet three year old niece and will be able to keep up with her forthcoming sibling. I enjoy exercising at the gym (sadly, on hold due to COVID). I enjoy shopping for clothes for myself, a task I used to dread. I still enjoy food. God knows I still love to eat. Food is something we cannot ever stop needing, which makes obesity harder to deal with than drug addiction. One can avoid drugs and alcohol, but one can not avoid food. But know I really, and I do mean really, take a closer look at the nutritional label. Things I used to eat and thought were healthy turned out to be as unhealthy (if not more so) than things we all consider to be bad for us. Talenti Sorbet, for example, should be healthy. After all, it’s fruit that’s been blended, perhaps with some juice, and frozen. Talenti also adds over 30 grams of additional sugar. Eating Ben & Jerry’s is healthier in this instance because B&J has actual protein in it. And that’s scary, sad, and incredibly eye opening. So not only do I have to make sure I eat more protein and less carbs (basically I eat a low carb-high protein diet that is similar to KETO, but not quite), I have to look at the amount of sugar that’s included, trying to avoid harmful fake sugars (laxative effect), but also try to have a balance that includes fruit, vegetables, dairy, etc. Do I always succeed? Some days I do really well and others not so well. There are products some patients love that I cannot tolerate (taste, etc), and some that I enjoy and others don’t. And this is perfectly normal. Even though I know people who have had the same surgery, or similar, to mine, we are all still individuals with different tastes. 

The point of sharing all this is very, very simple. People, even people who have known me and my struggle to lose weight for years, think having Bariatric Surgery is a quick fx and an easy out. There are people, high profile too, who blast those of us who have undergone such a procedure. This is wrong. Bariatric Surgery isn’t like having an elective plastic surgery to do a face lift. One, for the most part, can live with having wrinkles and laugh lines. Such things do not, and I mean this wholeheartedly, DO NOT improve anything other than one’s ego and vanity. I’m not talking about plastic surgery that has to be done for medical reasons (because that does exist and valid medical reasons are VALID for a reason). Weight loss surgery is done because it improves the life of the patient who will otherwise suffer ongoing and worsening medical issues. This is a surgery which is done to save lives because it does.

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Without this surgery, I knew I would probably not live past 50 without having issues such as blindness, limb amputation, etc. Now, I feel like I can live to be 100. I am happy. My depression is better. My anxiety is better. I no longer have to take medication in order to sleep because of my anxiety. I don’t have to take medication to help the depression medication work better. I’ve gone from 3 pills for Depression to 1. Two medications for Diabetes to one. I used to take 10 prescriptions a day. Now, I take half that. I used to go through a rescue inhaler a month (at the bare minimum). I haven’t had to refill my rescue inhaler in 7 months. I still have it and carry it. But now I don’t feel chained to my asthma. So, if you are considering having this done, talk to a doctor. Reach out to the various support groups that are out there. Research, research, research. If you decide to go for it, I am happy for you. If you find you cannot, but want to try a different program to lose weight, I am happy for you. No matter what, I am happy for you because you are the one making the decision. I only want to share my experience and my reasoning. If this ends up helping one person, then I am glad.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16839478

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265215

https://www.businessinsider.com/bmi-is-bogus-best-way-to-tell-if-youre-a-healthy-weight-2016-9

https://www.bariatricpal.com/topic/346977-why-getting-sleeved-was-the-biggest-mistake-of-my-life/

https://www.obesityhelp.com/forums/amos/5250564/Gastric-sleeve-biggest-mistake-of-my-life/

https://www.gastricsleeve.com/forum/showthread.php?t=52900

https://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/central-phoenix/weight-loss-surgery-in-mexico-might-not-be-as-safe-as-advertisede

Baritric Surgery: Sleeve

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Me at age 4 months. My mom still has this outfit.

As many of you may not know, I had Gastric Sleeve surgery on May 14th of this year. My surgery was p[performed at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington by Dr. Cheregi (who’s been simply FANTASTIC). I have long struggled with my weight and even as a child, I was chubby.

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Uncle Neil and I; I was about 2 or 3 at this time.

At one point, during my Concordia University days, I had slimmed down to 230 lbs from 270, which is not an easy feat. I then worked for Meijer (a mega supermarket chain originating in Michigan) where I got exposed to some nasty chemicals that led to  spontaneous pnemothoraxes. In essence, I had coughed so much and so hard, I ended up with 3 holes in my lungs. This led to being put on some major cortisone steroids (and other medications). Steroids for Asthmatics are not the same as those used by athletes. When you are on a dosage, you have to be weaned off and there are notorious for making  one gain weight. I was on such a high dosage, it took nearly a year to be weaned off. So I went from 230 to 300 in a year. Not my proudest moment. Then I went to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where they discovered I was diabetic. The medication they put me on made me jump from 300 to 350 (diabetes medication is also well known to cause weight gain). Transferred to Kansas State, put on different diabetic medication and slimmed down to 300 again. After graduation, cannot afford the better medication, so put on Metformin, which not only makes me nauseous but causes me to gain weight (some lose weight on it, I didn’t). This led me to being over 330 lbs again by the time my niece was born two years ago.

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Vivienne and I, May 2017

So, I made the decision to ask my primary doctor about seeing a nutritionist. And she’s been wonderful! Kate has been helpful and has helped try to understand what foods were triggering higher blood sugars (all of them), plus has helped me lose over 30 lbs in the year that I’ve been seeing her. Unfortunately, losing weight did not help my blood sugars at all. I was running over 200 into the 300s on a daily basis. Finally taken off of Metformin by an endocrinologist and put on Insulin. And the dosage kept getting higher and higher. Even though I was eating right, exercising, and had lost weight, the blood sugars just wouldn’t come down. So the Endo first brought up the subject of gastric surgery last August. So I did what I do best and started researching, talking to my primary, and talking to the nutritionist.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Erin Fowles Nielsen, Katie Alexander and Sabaah Z Jauhar-Rizvi, people smiling, people standing and indoor

Classmates and I at the 20 yr HS Reunion this past Autumn.

By December, I had made the decision to have the surgery. This meant calling the insurance company, finding out what steps I had to take, and finding a surgeon. By January, I had meet Dr. Cheregi and had done all the tests needed for the insurance company. We had a tentative surgery date of April as I needed the psychiatrist to write a letter. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally after calling repeatedly for days and weeks on end, the letter was submitted and a surgery date was scheduled. Last minute blood work was done and all was set up. At the same time, i had started a new job and had been there about a month. They were all fine with me needing a few days off (they forced me to take a week, which really was the best decision).

Surgery was not as bad as one might think. They give you anti-anxiety meds so I was fairly chill going into surgery. And once they put you under, you are out. At least I was. Next thing, I was in recovery with a male nurse forcing me to take some ice chips. And the first 8 hours were not pleasant. I am not going to lie about that. The anti-nausea medication actually made me nauseous. You have a drain put in to reduce swelling, and a pillow is needed to press against the stomach when coughing or gagging. But I did well as I didn’t ask for pain medication too often and sometime just getting liquid Tylenol was enough to take the pain away. Mainly, I slept.  The next day, I has some broth (meh), Crystal Light lemonade (ok), tea (because I needed it), and a Popsicle (yum!). The Popsicle was needed do to sore throat from being intubated. But I wasn’t really hungry. Did walk and sat in the recovery chair most of the day, snoozing. Got the drain removed and went home. And for about three days, did nothing more than take some pain meds, sleep, drink copious amounts of broth, protein water (I highly recommend Protein2O), eat some Popsicles and had some tea, on occasion. From the date of my surgery to my 1 week check up, I lost 13 lbs (I was 288 the day of surgery). Today I weigh 270, which is 60 lbs lighter than I was a year ago, and 18 lbs since the surgery (I thought it was 17, thinking I was under 288 day of surgery, but I checked and I was wrong).

The hardest part was while doing all of this prep work since January, I lost my Grandmother and my cat. Doris died in January and Jack had surgery before Christmas to remove a tumor that was on his head. We thought he would have at least 6  months before the tumor came back. He had six weeks. My grandmother I didn’t mourn as much, mainly because she had been declining for two years. But Jack was my baby and I still miss him. He was only 9.5 yrs old. So, it’s been hard to recover from that and the surgery at the same time.

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My boy Jack during our time at Kansas State. He had a thing for the linen closet.

After that first week post-op, things got better. I still don’t get hungry, but sometimes a bit peckish. The rules of eating post-op are the first week, clear liquids, then second full liquids. Then weeks 3 & 4 you can add things like soft scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes…you get the picture. But it’s important to realize that these are guidelines and every one will recover differently. I’m technically in week four, but couldn’t tolerate eggs until recently. It can take me 20-30 minutes to consume 3 oz of soup. And that’s the trick everyone has to learn. You have to take small bites and also take your time chewing. I have had a few missteps and have vomited since the surgery. Drinking water too fast and too quickly was one lesson. The other is eating too fast. But I am learning, losing weight and my blood sugars are finally within a more normal range. One day I woke up and it was 90, which is considered normal. This was the main reason I did the surgery, to help with the diabetes. Will it cure diabetes for me? For some, they are able to get off all medication. I may never because it runs on both sides of the family. But what sounds better, a low dose of insulin for years and years or having to increase it until it’s a few hundred units a day? I’ll take the low dose, to be perfectly honest.

So, why write about this? Why inform everyone? Because in America, there’s a stigma against people who have weight loss surgery. Which I think is ridiculous because no one undergoes having half (or more) of their stomach removed (or those who get bypass have a small pouch and no longer use their stomach) for the thrill of it all. People do this for medical reasons. Diabetes is a major reason it’s done, but not the only one. There are famous celebrities who’ve had surgery yet won’t admit to it. And I think that’s truly awful. There should be no shame in getting proper medical treatment that improves one’s quality of life. It’s not for everyone and that’s fine. There are people that are able to lose weight on their own or with assistance from a nutritionist or even a personal trainer. Some of us aren’t that lucky and do need the surgery. For me, the part of the stomach that was removed is also the part of the body that tends to create insulin resistance issues (meaning I kept having to get the insulin increased in order to work). So now the insulin can actually work and do it’s job in controlling the blood sugars. The bonus is that I will also be able to lose weight, which will help the diabetes, the asthma, and even the depression & anxiety that I have. Because as one loses weight, medications get adjusted and can work more efficiently.

Basically I wanted to share this to be upfront and honest, but also just tell people that it’s OK if you get weight loss surgery and it’s OK if you don’t. There are many people out there that are overweight and it’s not always a result of over eating. Yes, food is involved, but things like medications and actual medical issues can also cause weight gain and retention. I’m not looking to be a model after I lose most of the weight because that’s not my goal. I would like to be able to shop in a regular store, run after my niece, and make myself a pelisse or two. I did this for me and not for anyone else. And that’s all that matters.

Why 2018 has been a terrible year

I don’t care about your political views or what sport teams you prefer. Trump and May have made an utter shite feast of what historians may refer to as the old Western Civilization. Kayne West should hand in his Chi-Town card (yes, it’s a thing). Mayonnaise flavored ice cream and as a pizza topping is the first sign of the Apocalypse. Still, we can all agree 2018 has been an utter mess of a year.

For me, I’ve not only struggled with my weight, depression, anxiety, and diabetes, but the added pressure of trying to find the elusive magical creature called a “job.” I believe it to be a cross breed betwixt the Loch Ness and a Unicorn with the possible lineage hailing from a jackalope on it’s mother’s father’s side thrice removed. Yes, while writing a novel and poetry, trying to keep the darkness of depression at bay, I’ve struggled trying to find a job. Now, my mother believes that I have not been looking hard enough, only because I am loathe to do so in her presence. I have this overwhelming sense of shame permeating the air around me, so I try to keep it at a minimum. Of course, with anxiety, I often suffer from insomnia. This means while my mother has been abed, sleeping, I have been restless, crying and not sleeping. I often get up around 3AM, look for jobs, apply, and back in bed, finally asleep around 5-6AM. My mother then is upset when I don’t get up until 10 or 11AM as she feels that I have been lazy and asleep too long. So, yes, if you’ve been counting, that’s a lucky 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night for the past year and a half, give or take a few days when I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve gone to bed around 6pm and slept until 9AM. Or I’ve been given sleeping medication by my primary doctor because my blood-work shows I am suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion. Oddly enough, one cannot take sleeping pills too often as they are addictive. I find after 3 days, they no longer work.

As for the malnutrition, the medication I take for diabetes in the morning, on top of all my stress, makes me nauseous. So I have trouble eating. It is not uncommon for me to vomit up my breakfast because of stress or medication. So I chose to go without until about 2 or 3PM (FYI, that’s not good). An obese diabetic who cannot eat is wildly peak 2018 ironic. Diabetes is a terrible disease. I do not recommend it. Some medication (pills) can help one lose weight (water mainly) but worsen your depression. One injectable (in the morning) helps lower the blood sugar but causes nausea and weight loss. It also causes migraines (painful ones too). The insulin causes weight gain. The forty pounds I painstakingly worked in shedding this past year has been reversed, shockingly, because my insulin has had to go up, which means I have gained weight. Again. So the conversation I have had with every single doctor since I was 12 about losing weight is, of course, thrown in my face. I think it would shock most people to know I eat, on average, between 1400-1600 calories a day. I’m actually under-eating for my weight and have been for about a decade. So, I am seriously considering weight loss surgery because I’ve been some kind of diet since I was 12 and I cannot live the rest of my life perpetually gaining weight as the insulin has to keep going up because I am getting more and more insulin intolerant. This is why I do not recommend Diabetes to anyone.

As for the novel, I think I need to do more work on my query letter before sending it out. I was too premature on that and the harsh, almost cruel responses from the 10 agents I’ve gotten responses from has been beyond comprehension. I know my novel is good and others will like it. But to tell me that no one will read it because of who I am is uncalled for. Of course another blow was submitting a few poems for publication only to be told that I was plagiarizing someone famous. I stupidly submitted some poems to Poetry.com from 2002-2005 (roughly 6-8). One ended up published in one of their books. The others were published on their website. The website has been defunct since 2016 and you cannot even find via Archive. So, imagine my blow to find out around my birthday that some famous twat has used my poems, claiming to have written them, and has made money off of them. It’s devastating because I have the original poems (I wrote them in an English Norton Anthology text book) with notations that a certain teacher liked them. So I do know when they were written. I won’t name the person (yet) but it’s an added stress of now having someone steal something so personal, an artistic expression of oneself, and to have it highly commercialized. Intellectual Property theft is an actual thing (I know, who knew?). I will only add to my defense that anyone who has been around me physically, knows I listen to Talk Radio, Classical Music, my CDs, or iPhone. I rarely listen to the Radio otherwise and these poems were written close to 20 years ago which is why I didn’t catch the theft earlier. Plus I have written over 200 poems. You cannot expect me to recall the particulars of every single one.

As for the mysterious “job,” it’s been increasingly frustrating. I’ve applied to teach, only to be told I do not have a PhD in order to teach at a Jr College. I have a IL substitute teaching license, which thankfully will expire next year (it was not worth the money). I qualify on the state level to teach in schools but schools will not hire me as I do not have a background in early childhood education. Unfortunately, the one Theatre job I did do soured me to the point that I still cannot Design professionally (though I miss it). They killed that dream fairly early on (not reimbursing me and bad treatment backstage was just uncalled for). I applied at Trader Joe’s and they first “lost” my application. The next time, they said I was over qualified. And that’s been the general response. I am over qualified or not qualified enough. I am, apparently, over qualified to work at a local animal shelter taking care of cats for 15 hours a week. My mother’s glib remarks usually pertain to that there’s a new fast food place opening up.  Yes, dear mother, let’s apply and be told one is over qualified to work at the local chippy. Because I really need yet another layer of thin rejection on top of the condemnation you give me on a daily basis.

It’s even worse as my depression is at such a level that I physically cannot work a FT job. I cannot stress how physically debilitating depression and anxiety are on top of insomnia. A FT position, quite frankly, would kill me. I would not have the strength nor the mentality to cope with one. Nor do I want the stress of one. I do think 2018 has made me prioritize myself for the first time in my life. I have always been the person who places everyone else’s needs, wishes and desires above my own. It is a fault and a failing stemming from my need to gain acceptance from both of my parents. I am the oldest, but my brother was and always will be the favorite of both of them. I cannot change this and it’s not worth fighting anymore. I have never been good enough and that led to me having suicidal thoughts a few years back and I was hospitalized. It’s amazing how much over 30 years of feeling worthless can break you down. And I am better. But I have to realize, and have come to, how the people I chose to be my family are much more supportive (and it’s vital to have such support). Now, I still love my parents and don’t hate that they prefer one sibling over another because they are human-they are flawed.

Then the possibility of losing my beloved cat, Jack is something I don’t want to think about. When I am having an anxiety attack, Jack helps calm me down. Cats are notorious good at such things. Pets are precious to us because they give us our humanity.

So yes, 2018 has been utter shite as my brother from another mother across the pond would say (Daniel, you really have been my rock). But it’s been like that for a lot of us. I know there have been people who’ve had it much worse than me. I am still here. I will still fight to survive.

Alexa, play “Under Pressure”…