This blog is an attempt to document my quest to become a dad that my family can be proud of.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Saturday, August 4, 2012
I took the week off from the gym - I got an email from one of the owners of FXB asking how I'm doing and how he can help -- You know that feeling that you get that tells you to quit sometimes - as an athlete, the more you train and get into better and better shape, it gets easier and easier to suppress that inner voice, but when you are out of shape and struggling, it can sometimes be louder than any music they pump through the speakers at the gym - Let me tell you, that voice gets amplified tenfold when you lose your child -- there are those moments, lots of them, when you say WTF am I doing and FTW - I truly can't tell you how close I have been to walking out of a workout several times these last three months. I'm ashamed of the fact that I've gotten to that point where I let that voice win sometimes. That voice won this week - but I'm tougher than that. I'm not going to beat myself up over it anymore. There's absolutely nothing I can do to change anything in the past and I will no doubt live the rest of my life with a broken heart -- but that doesn't mean that life still can't be great and it all starts with getting happy with myself
Monday morning is 40 days before my 40th birthday. It's on!
Monday, June 4, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
Once I finally got there, I noticed my not so wonderful neighbors felt it ok to let their kids/grandkids that show up from out of nowhere every few weekends yell and scream late into the night. But even without the added noise, I’m afraid I would have had a tough time falling asleep. I have so much on my mind these days – I battled the anxiety that today is my first day back at work since Gracie passed away. It’s so hard to be here pretending that I’m still not devastated by the loss of my sweet girl – I really miss her. It’s a pain that may dull over time, but losing her has changed me forever. Despite being worried about going back to my office filled with pictures of her, I was more worried about being away from Carrie today – this is tough on me, but as the mom, much tougher on her. I don’t feel like I did her justice on Mother’s day – I can’t convey to everyone how amazing of a mother she has been to our girls – I know what people have seen from afar has been amazing, but let me assure you as the closest one to her during Gracie’s whole journey that the tireless and thankless things that she did every single day were even more amazing than it would appear – I am as proud of Carrie as I am of Gracie. We are working through things in our own ways, and I try to give her space, but I do prefer to be close in case she needs anything from me.
To add to my already spinning head as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t help but think about my good friend who I learned was moved to hospice on Friday. Several of us had left him voice mails and texts recently and hadn’t heard back from him – he was diagnose with a brain tumor 5+ years ago, the treatment went well and for a few years things were calm, but the last year or so they found some more growths and despite his character to not trouble others with his issues, it was obvious to many of his friends that things were getting worse than he lead us to believe – When I didn’t see him at Gracie’s funeral, I knew that things were not good. He was in my wedding and, one of the few friends of mine to come and visit Gracie in the hospital in all of her stays. Every time we would meet for lunch, I would ask how he was doing, but he would quickly switch the conversation back to how Gracie was doing instead. He is a good friend, a creative type like myself – we always joked about starting a t-shirt company to sell shirts with stupid sayings – we even went so far at one point as to look at a setup someone had in their basement that they used for family reunions, etc on Craigslist – we left the place to think about it over a couple of beers and we were all set to buy it, when we realized that we loved the idea of coming up with ideas, but neither of us wanted to actually do the work. I wasn’t close to him growing up, but in my adulthood we have become pretty good friends. We don't see each other all the time, but he means a lot to me. I visited him on Saturday – he was pretty out of it. I don’t have to tell you what hospice means, but it’s evident that it is only a short matter of time. He was sleeping when I left, but before I did I asked him that if there is such a place as heaven, to please find my girl and make sure that she is taken care of – I’m sure he heard me and I know he won’t let me down.
With all of this going on in my head, I laid there and tossed and turned until 3:05 AM when I finally made the decision that I had to text my workout partner Chad letting him know that I just wouldn’t be able to make it to FXB this morning – I just hadn’t slept and the idea of getting up in 55 minutes and facing today’s kickboxing workout seemed impossible at the time – of course now I regret not going but just I just didn’t have it in me today – I know a tougher man would have sucked it up and been there, and I’ve tried very hard to get back to my routine, but I’m afraid, with everything going on, I’m not quite ready. I’ll be there tomorrow though for legs and abs - I can only take things one day at a time right now. Sometimes I think I’m not sure if I would’ve started this if I knew all that was going to happen during this time, but then I realize that for some reason I was drawn to that place and the added support and stress relief it is bringing me could not have come at a better time – without the structured program, I’m sure I would be in an unhealthy spiral, but for the most part FXB has been keeping me positive and on the right path – to me it’s not about the 10 week contest – I lost my chance at that a long time ago, but it’s about the lifestyle change, and remembering more and more each day how much better life feels when I am healthy – but most importantly for me right now is the daily reminder that when things get tough in the gym (and they do daily in FXB) as in life, as bad as you want to give up and quit sometimes, as long as you push on and keep trying and working hard, things will be OK.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
I was emptying my pockets from that day and found the words I spoke at Gracie's celebration of life -- I wanted to have a record of what I said before throwing the printed copy away, so I am including them here:
Last time I prepared something to say in front of a group like this was a year ago as we prepared to go to Boston. I came up with pages of things to say about our journey with Gracie up to that point – we were very scared, but at the same time, very hopeful – this time was much harder, believe it or not, I'm kind of at a loss for words.
We want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for sharing in the journey with our Gracie. I can't adequately convey to you how proud we are to be able to say that we are the parents of that little girl. It is overwhelming to us to see all of the people that she impacted in her short life. It's impossible for me to put into words what she has taught me. She has made me a better man. As cliché as this sounds – At night, in the sky there are millions of stars – most of them you can't see and the ones you do, look like they're staying in one spot – some brighter than the others, and once in awhile if you're lucky enough to be looking up at just the right time, you will see a bright star streak across the sky and before you know it, it's gone – often gone so fast that you are unsure even of what you have just seen – I know I'm biased, but I believe that Gracie was one of those shooting stars.
Many of you had never met her in person and I'm sorry you never got to see the Gracie that we knew. She was not just the miracle baby hooked up to all of the tubes and wires that you saw in the pics from her hospital stays, but was a smart, funny, and charismatic little girl that we were so excited to share with everyone. For those that didn't meet her, we didn't want your only memory of her to be in a funeral home in a coffin, so I ask that you take a look at the many beautiful pictures of her that are here today – She truly was as beautiful as she was strong. I have needed to remind myself of her strength a lot these last few days and will continue to use that as the source of my strength in the difficult days, weeks, and years to come.
As difficult as losing Gracie is to us, we are very proud to be able to say that we tried everything we could to give her the life that she deserved.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
She didn't respond to her initial antibiotics, so they were thinking it was probably viral, which makes it tough because you can't really fix it, you just have to WAIT. She was on 3 liters of oxygen and her sats (oxygen saturations) were still only in the upper 80s to low 90s – She was very crabby for a couple days and was getting worse – it was obvious something was really wrong. They did several nebulizer treatments to try and get her breathing to be easier.
Around the same time, the nurse noticed that her pupils were very different - one was big and the other was very small. Yikes. They took her downstairs for a head CT to make sure everything was ok. They didn't find anything on the scan, which is very good. The theory is that when the doctor put a central line in Gracie's neck, she irritated a nerve that caused her pupils to react. They still haven't gone back to normal, but no one seems worried about it.
THEN - as if that wasn't enough for a day - her labs showed her potassium levels were really high and she hadn't had a wet diaper for a long time. Something was happening with her kidneys. They did a kidney ultrasound that showed her kidneys were swollen. Nobody knows why they were not working, but they needed to start working to clear the potassium out of her system. If potassium gets too high it can make the heart stop. The next labs showed her levels even higher - critically high. They gave her several meds to lower her levels of potassium and some interventions to get her to pee and now, finally, she is peeing a little and her potassium is within normal limits. They even had the IV in to allow them to do dialysis, but - knock on wood - it doesn't look like we are going to need it.
What a day. We were pretty worried and stressed this afternoon, but things are looking better now. She is still on the ventilator with lots of support, but her sats are getting better and her blood gases are great. Hopefully they will even be able to wean some of the ventilator settings soon. She is definitely not out of the woods yet, but I feel like I can breathe a little now.
The good news is, her heart is doing good :) Ironically, all of this has nothing to do with her heart. It is a little more stressed, but it is understandable with all she has going on.
Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers and words of support. It means a lot to us. I really hope my update tomorrow will be much more boring
Gracie is still on the ventilator and probably will be for a while. She has lots of junk in her lungs that needs to get out before she will be able to breathe easy without the ventilator. They have been able to wean the oxygen down from 80% to 40% and some of the settings have been weaned so she is getting less support.
So the last couple of days have been about the same – nothing too exciting – her mascot is the tortoise during these stays – slow and steady. Gracie is still critical, but her kidneys are slowly getting better. She'll probably spend a couple weeks in the CVCC at Children's. I'm hoping that she is off the ventilator soon – yesterday she was awake quite a bit and for the most part was relatively calm. It's so nice to see her with her eyes open and calm. I know it's just a matter of time before she turns back into the spunky Gracie that tries to rip the ventilator out – It's a battle for the nurses, but that fight has gotten her where she is today (I try to think about how tough she is when my mind is telling me to stop during my workouts). I will never get used to seeing my child on a ventilator and for those of you that have seen yours, you know how devastating it can be to see that silent cry and not be able to do anything about it. The last couple of days were tough on all of us – I think Carrie said it best – the adrenaline of how serious things were over the weekend has now worn off a bit and we both kind of got to that angry phase. This poor little girl has been through so much in her short 17 months of life. After all of these ground breaking, life saving heart surgeries she's been through – the latest in Boston over Christmas and now she's in critical condition in the ICU because she caught a cold. Enough is enough!!! But I couldn't be more proud of how tough she is. And speaking of proud – I can't do my wife justice when I attempt to put into words what she does for our family – she says I'm too wordy, so the best compliment I can give her is to keep it short, but I am amazed that at 35 weeks pregnant, she, without complaint, stands/sleeps next to that hospital bed just in case Gracie opens her eyes so she knows that Mommy is there – I am a very lucky man. Let's hope Gracie comes home before the arrival of our son – that would add a whole new level of complexity!!!
My last post was about my first week at FXB. I was not able to make it last Saturday because of Gracie's condition – I gotta admit, my inner 3 year old was a little jealous of those that got a perfect attendance sticker on their check in card for last week. I was able to make to the 9:30 class on Monday and have figured out a solution for someone to watch our other daughter, Lylli, so I can go to my normal 5 am class. I'm burning the candle at both ends these days, but am determined to not let any excuse to sidetrack this effort. As long as I'm not denying my highest priority, my family, during this difficult time, I will find a way to get there – FXB is the tool that I am using to make sure that I am around for these guys for a real long time. Wish me luck -- I am adding another level of complexity for a week starting today – I have to carry the 24 x 7 on call pager for work. The last thing I need to do is add more stress these days, but whatever doesn't kill me, right?
Thank you for all of the people that have found this blog – the support has been great!!
Saturday, April 21, 2012
As often happens at the start of a new important chapter in my life, I think to myself over and over about how I need to write a blog post about it, but as times goes by, I become overwhelmed at the thought – writing is not exactly my greatest strength and I struggle because I want to adequately reflect in words what is happening.
That said – a week ago today, I walked into a room full of people to do my baseline testing to kickoff the 10 week program at FXB. To be honest, I questioned what I was doing there that day. A room full of people is the last place I want to be – especially doing things that point out my obvious weaknesses that I'd been denying for awhile now. It was very humbling – on that day, I did a step test to check heart rate, I ran a mile, did pushups, sit-ups, tested my reach with a stretch, got my body fat tested, got weighed, and had them measure my chest, arms, waist, hips and thigh – not to mention posed for a "Before" picture wearing nothing but skimpy shorts. Needless to say, after seeing my results of all of these tests, I had never been more ashamed of where I've gotten myself physically. It's amazing what a guy can convince himself of – I mean, I wrestled in the state tournament in high school, was a scholarship football player in college, bench pressed 500 lbs, squatted a lot more than that and studied and lived the bodybuilding lifestyle enough to understand what I need to do to cut fat. All of that, of course I'm still "somewhat" fit, right? – I mean, sure there's some extra weight, but I'm still a stud, right? Nope. It's that same skewed thinking that got me a little skeptical about taking advice from a bunch of confident younger guys walking around with no shirt sleeves on (ok older than me too Tim) – it quickly became obvious to me that these guys were not the d-bags that I convinced myself they might be, but that it was simply my personal defense mechanism for dealing with where I'm at. I think it's a testosterone thing, but those thoughts couldn't have been further from the truth.
I woke up Monday at 4 AM – I was still very sore from testing and wondered what I was getting myself into, but made it to my first class – cardio kickboxing. I won't bore you with all of the details, but let's just say that I looked at the clock about 5 minutes into the warm-up and was already ready to call it a day. Everybody there is so encouraging – it's a staple of the program that all people, even after they've been there for awhile need to encourage and help the newbies – it's an extremely positive environment and that team spirit is engrained in you from day one. It's a strange vibe there – like everybody has stumbled upon a great secret that they feel obligated to share. I know only after 1 week that is how I feel. I don't think I have lost any weight yet, but can feel muscles that I haven't felt in a long time. I can honestly say that after the second day, I already noticed myself walking a little taller (now sitting down was another story). I am the furthest thing from a morning person, but I have been excited everyday to get up at 4 in the morning to get ready for class – it's a weird combination of being deathly afraid of the Hell that I'll go through for 45 minutes and excitement that I know this is going to get me where I want to be. The first couple days I was embarrassed about not being able to do everything and about how out of shape I am, but it quickly became obvious that nobody cares a bit about where I'm at as long as I am doing my best to get better. They leave me alone enough to battle my own demons to push myself, but are always lurking around the corner to give me a little "encouragement" when I let that voice in my head tell me to sandbag.
This week, Gracie came down with Pneumonia and has spent most of the nights alarming due to low oxygen saturations and screaming – there have been a couple nights where I've only gotten a couple hours of sleep, but I still made it to class. I've been exhausted, but am proud that I got there – I don't know if the old Rich would have done that. I have followed the nutrition plan to a T and can't wait to get back for another workout to take the next step in the right direction. I can honestly say after one week of this program that there will be a day that the name of this site will be ironic.
All of that said, I was unable to make it to class this morning as Gracie has gotten worse, so we had to bring her to Children's where she has been admitted – hopefully for a very short stay. She is stable and they are pretty sure that everything is good with her heart, so hopefully it's just a matter of getting her what she needs to fight the pneumonia. As bummed as I was to not be able to go to class today, I know where my priorities lie, but I am also once again reminded of how important it is for me to get healthy – My family needs me.
I'm going to stick with this and train and run that marathon in the fall and maybe someday I'll even get under 250 so I can shave off this beard?! I will continue to record my journey
Friday, April 13, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Thursday, January 5, 2012
In true Bendoeslife fashion, I was all fired up and got up the courage to take a "before" pic in my boxers, but after I started thinking about it, I had this vision of seeing my picture pop up on all of my co-workers computer screens, so I'll admit, I'm using the one with the flash that makes it difficult to make out my face in case I need to deny that its me. But make no mistake about it -- there it is, in all its glory, my giant Belly. What kind of 300+ lb idiot posts a picture of himself in his boxers for the world to see? One that obviously needs to change his ways and get his act together -- everybody has been so forgiving when I haven't followed through in the past -- Maybe a little public embarrasment will help!
Dear Gut -
My friend, it's been a great run and man, it was a lot of work and a lot of fun watching you grow -- you've grown far beyond my wildest dreams. I'm afraid that its time for me to say good bye -- don't worry, it won't happen overnight, but I intend on spending a lot of time chipping away at you until a good portion of you has gone away -- If I can put the dedication into getting rid of you that I did helping you grow, I will not be keeping you (or at least all of you) around for long -- no hard feelings!
The rest of Rich
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I was pretty bummed because I knew I would be flying home a week early and would have loved to go see Dick Hoyt Speak.
For those that may not have heard of Team Hoyt: Dick Hoyt has a son named Rick. Rick, (taken from their site) due to oxygen deprivation at birth was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy… When he was around 15 years old, Rick told his dad that he wanted to run a local 5 mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player that had been paralyzed. Although coming in almost last place, Dick pushed Rick in his wheelchair the whole 5 mile race --- (again from their sight)That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running it feels like I’m not handicapped” – This started what has been decades of and thousands of races including several Ironman’s. Their story moved me before, but now that I have become the father of Gracie, I can’t even tell you how much their story means to me – I’m honestly tearing up right now trying to type this………OK – I got myself back together – if you haven’t watched this youtube link below, I urge you to – I am at a loss for words on how to explain it
All that said, my amazing pregnant wife, after the doctors took Gracie away this morning to remove her broviac tubes and do a sedated echo, sprinted across town to the building where he was speaking – walked in with only about 5 minutes left into a room full of people wearing suits and ties, stood in line and told him about how we, too, are parents of a child with a disability and how much an inspiration he is to me and that I wish I could’ve been there to see him speak. He told her to wish me the best of luck in my efforts and they took a picture together. It means so much that she did that for me. I’m a lucky man!!!
I've been talking a lot lately to a friend of mine about his relationship with booze – Always over-analyzing everything these days, the conversations that we've had have really made me think about where I'm at in my life. I've got similar problems and I think it's in my best interest to accept it and approach the same way – I'm not saying that I need to stop drinking (Although maybe not as much sometimes) -- but there are just too many great beers out there that I haven't tried yet – of course, I do need to understand that they do contain calories and will need to drink them cautiously if I want to achieve my goals of becoming healthy. What I am saying is that my weight issues are similar in a lot of ways – it's about control and restraint – it's about having that ridiculous need for instant gratification. I don't know where it comes from, but something happens when I get around food – if 1 bite is good, then I better shove as much as I can in my mouth before its either gone or taken away.
I don't even realize that I think that way most of the time. We were in Boston in the cafeteria at the hospital while Gracie was napping upstairs – My wife asked if I wanted to share a pudding. She has the ability to enjoy small portions of desserts, etc – a few pieces or bites of something are enough for her. That is why she, despite having a treat of some kind every day, remains at a healthy weight. For some reason, I'm not wired that way – She told me she was almost done and told me to eat some – so I took a huge heaping bite – she shook her head and said – "You see? That's the problem – you are incapable of understanding that if you would have split that giant bite up into 3 or 4 human sized bites – you would have enjoyed your pudding that much more." Don't tell her I said this, but I think she might be onto something.
Back to the conversations with my friend – There is power in restraint – I think the key is to take pride in it. To remember when your screwed up insides say "Damn, that small piece was good – I better shove a whole bunch of that in my face and in a hurry, because when I do it fast, it doesn't count" -- instead say to yourself – "You know what? Even though I really want to indulge (or over-indulge in my case) – I am strong enough to stop" and then I need to learn to take pride in the fact that I did it – I know I won't regret it.
But just like with booze for my friend, when I stop, I need to realize that this is what I need to do for me – others may not need to stop, but I do because that's where I am on my journey. When I'm eating really clean, etc – I'll find cookies in the car or hidden in a far away cabinet because my wife often comments how she feels guilty eating her treats in front of me, etc (probably also because she knows I've been incapable of allowing said treats to last long if I know they're there) – but I need to realize that I've made my bed – Let's compare it to Halloween candy – I'd be the kid that eats everything right away and especially the good things first – so when I wake up on November 1st, I feel like crap and am full of regret and left with a number 2 pencil, a couple quarters and an apple in my plastic pumpkin and if I'm lucky maybe one of those nougatty orange wax paper wrapped peanut butter things. On the other hand, Carrie is eating Milky Way's and Reece's peanut butter cups for months and enjoys every one of them – There is no reason that she should feel bad for that. We both had the same amount of candy – she just chose to eat them in a much smarter way than I did.
I think what I need to work on in everything I do is to make decisions based on how I'll feel when the act is done, not based on what I want at that very moment. I would guess if I could learn to think "how will I feel about this in an hour, 12 hours, or even a day from now?" before I do something, I would make a lot better decisions in every aspect of my life. Most of the time when I eat something that I shouldn't or way too much of something, it only takes a few minutes until I regret the decision – usually the moment I swallow my last bite (now that I think of it, often during my first bite, but at that point I think to myself, Oh well, it's too late – I better eat the hell out this now, because I won't eat it again for a long time – Yeah Right! – that's worked).
Taking that extra moment to think about how I'll feel when it's over will help me in most aspects of my life – I know my wife would appreciate it. So many times I get into arguments and then later find myself confessing to her that I was not really even mad at her at all, but caught up in the moment, angry at myself, and redirecting at the most important person to me. If I could take a second before I blow something out of proportion to think about how I'll feel about what I'm about to say after things settle down, I'm sure her life would be a lot better. Same goes for drinking too much or eating too much.
That said -- it's not all about ignoring my insane need for instant gratification when it comes to consumption either – How many times do you not go for a run or do that workout because you don't feel like it at that moment? I guess the word in this case wouldn't be showing restraint – Maybe strength is the word I'd use – Whatever word describes what I'm lacking at that moment when I make the wrong choice. But really how many times have you ever said to yourself once it's over that you wish you didn't go for that run?
So out of all of that rambling – here are a couple things I am going to work on:
1. I will try to make decisions based on how I will feel after I complete what I'm about to do instead of only concentrating on how bad I want to do it at that moment
2. I am going to take pride in restraint when restraint is the right thing to do and maybe someday I'll get to a point where I can sit with my wife at night and enjoy a small treat and get more enjoyment out of a small portion of something instead of how it is today when what's in front of me is never enough – instead of subconsciously thinking maybe the next bite will make me satisfied and never finding that point, I hope to be some day satisfied when I give myself the well earned permission to enjoy the first bite - And I know that will come with learning to take pride in restraint.