Category Archives: commuter

Commuting Confusion

475px-The_Scream

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about my daily commute into the city.  I was so excited that I was able to do the commute without pain or difficulty. It is so liberating to be able to walk and stand without a problem.

Since I wrote this post, my commute into the city has changed, quite drastically.

Let’s start with this cool new train line called the Silver Line. The Silver Line is eventually going to make it’s way out to Dulles airport, which is not far from Sterling, Ashburn, and other far away lands in the exurbs of DC. But for now, the Silver Line only goes out to Reston. The addition of this train completely screwed up my morning commute.

I live and work on the Blue Line, which shares tracks with this new line for part of the trip. Now, the Blue Line trains already have a pretty raw deal. It shares tracks with the Yellow Line and the Orange Line in different areas. Where it shares tracks with the Yellow trains, you could see 3-5 Yellows before an over crowded Blue train shows up. The same is true where it shares tracks with the Orange Line trains.

Now that the Silver Line trains have been added, they reduced the Blue Line service. One now shows up every 12 minutes during rush hour, because that’s what the over crowded Blue Line trains need, less trains.

Fortunately, there is a bus that travels directly from in front of my apartment building and now drops me off 4 blocks from the office. To make up for the loss of train service, the genies at WMATA re-routed this bus. During the summer, I was walking 1.3 miles from where this bus dropped me off. Now, I only have to walk 4 blocks. It’s cheaper than the metro and closer to my office. What could possibly go wrong.

Let me tell you…

The bus drivers do not know the new route.

Today’s driver, missed her turn onto 18th Avenue from Constitution. She then did a u-turn on Constitution, which I didn’t even know was possible during rush hour, let alone on a bus. I was a little bit terrified. Then, she turned right onto Virginia Avenue and not 18th. This is generally not a problem because in 25 feet you can then just turn right onto 18th from Virginia. She didn’t do that. She continued on Virginia Avenue for a few blocks.

I don’t know where she went after that because I got off the bus. Perhaps she just gave up and drove back to Virginia to start again. I walked from 20th and C to 20th and M. That’s about a mile. It’s not a bad walk, and I do not mind doing it, but for the love of all that’s holy, can we please get some bus drivers that know how to drive in DC?

I really do not want to have to move just to get a better commute into the city. And I really do not want to drive! I only live six miles from the office. Surely, it does not have to be this difficult to get to work every day! Maybe I should just walk.

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Blossom Walk Update

This gallery contains 19 photos.

As many of you who follow my blog know, I set some goals for myself this spring. Two of those goals were to walk around the Tidal Basin and to attend the Cherry Blossom Parade. I walked around the Tidal … Continue reading

Life, Rebooted!

This past week has been fantastic.  Every day I am more and more amazed at what I can do, thanks to my 112 pound weight loss, which seems to have stalled-out recently.  At least I’m holding strong though and not going back up!

As I posted yesterday, my friends Liz & Steve have been visiting.  Well, yesterday, they went to the Smithsonian Museums with their girls.  I work in DC about 4 stops from the museums metro station, which is conveniently called Smithsonian.  I walked the 5 blocks to Farragut West, got myself turned around because I do not often go to that station.  Hopped off at the Smithsonian Station and  walked over to the Air and Space Museum, which had just closed for the day, and waited outside for my friends.  Then we took the metro and bus back to my hood where they were having a jazz concert/wine tasting and dined at the inimitable Busboys & Poets.

busboys

Then we walked around Shirlington some more.  My friends bought some cheese from Cheesetique.  And we walked back up the hill to my apartment.

A year ago, I could not have done all of this walking.  I would have gone home from work, probably by car.  Then I would have waited at my apartment for my friends to call me.  I would have had to drive the 4 blocks to the restaurant, parked, ate, and then drive back home.  I would have been in horrible pain, have difficulty breathing, and would have been just miserable.

Today, I think nothing of aimlessly wandering all over the darn place.  Plus, I was able to enjoy jazz, good friends, and good food!  I truly feel as if my life has been rebooted.

Tonight, more jazz at the Sculpture Garden!

Commuter Colleen

“This is my right; it is the right of every human being. I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the Capital, that is my choice. The meanest patient, yes, even the very lowest is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity.”  (emphasis mine) – Virginia Woolf, The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

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I love the violent jolt of the morning commute into our Capital city.  I don my commuter gear, my sunglasses, my ipod, and a thick veneer of commuter indifference to protect myself from the crowd, screaming street vendors, and panhandlers alike. I take a bus to the Pentagon every morning, which is cool in and of itself.  I arrive one minute before my blue line train arrives.  Today I had to charge my fare card again, but being a pro by now, I can add money to my card and run (yes, I said run) to catch my train, weaving between yellow line commuters to get to the doors.  Because I have done this 1,000 times, I know the perfect place to stand so that  am as close to the doors as possible. 

I stand on the train because there is nowhere to sit.  Besides, sitting is for sissies.  Commuter Colleen stands.  I hold onto the rails for dear life while sifting through songs on my ipod and turning epages on my electronic device.  I wear my sunglasses on the train which helps me ignore the crushing hordes of people on either side of me. 

I exit the train at Foggy Bottom, the center of GWU and GW Hospital.  I push my way up the escalator.  I know the unspoken metro escalator rules.  Stand right, walk left.  I emerge from the metro tunnel in blinding sunlight, weave through the crowds to begin my 5 1/2 block trek to my office, my feet pounding on the sidewalk in time to whatever fast-paced music I am listening to.

I know it is a grind.  Waiting for the bus, dealing with the crowded metro trains that are forever delayed.  The crowds in the city.  The increased potential for crime.  But still, I love it.

Some days are worse than others.  One day on the way home the trains were so crowded that I was crushed up against the exit doors.  I had to step out of the train at the Rosslyn station to let other commuters off.  But that station was so crowded, I could hardly take a step back.  One guy, in his frustration reached out and pushed me hard as he exited the train.  I pushed back and loudly called him an asshole.  Commuter Colleen is aggressive and tough.  She takes no crap!

My brother and sister each live out in the ex-urbs of DC in a far away land called Sterling, which is a mere 25 miles from where I live in Arlington.  It might as well be a different country.  My sister lives about 2-3 miles from where she works and would not have it any other way.  My brother does work in Tyson’s, but still prefers to live as far away from the city as possible.

I have to admit, where they live is very nice.  They each have a big yard and land.  They live in nice, quiet neighborhoods with lots of children.  Play dates and nice leisurely strolls through well manicured streets and parks galore. 

I pay probably about the same, maybe a little less, for a studio apartment.  The best place to go walking has many shops and restaurants.  And I’m not far from a bike path.  The area where I live is pretty nice, but just down the road is a much more modest neighborhood that is sometimes kind of sketchy.  Still, I love living this close to the city.  True denizens of DC consider where I live in Arlington to be the boonies, and I am six miles from my office.

When people ask me why I live here or why I don’t move out to nowheresville, I am always surprised.  I usually give them my stock answer…it’s closer to work and I would hate to commute into the city from out in the middle of nowhere.  And that is true.  It’s more true, however, that  I would probably die a slow and lingering death living out in the safe, calm, anesthetic land of manicured driveways and safe clean parks. 

The most exciting part of the commute for me is that I am able to do it at all.  Just a couple of years ago, I used to commute into DC for my job.  I worked a block from the Metro station and I really struggled to get there.  Between back pain and an inability to breathe made the short walk and ride on the metro train unbearable.  I used to sometimes take a cab into the city just to avoid the hellish commute.  But that’s $20 each way, and I cannot afford that often.

Now, the commute is not quite so hellish.  I look forward to my morning and afternoon walks to and from the metro station.  I’m thankful, even that I have such a hike to give me a chance to get some exercise in.  I even find that long walk is not enough.  I am going to have to add an evening walk through my neighborhood or even on the treadmill, which I can hardly believe.  Before the surgery, I could barely walk to the bus stop.  Now I’m standing on the metro, running to catch trains, walking through the city, and planning additional walking because apparently 10 blocks a day is not enough.

Besides, not every commuting experience is stressful.  I was in the “commuter zone” during one of my morning jaunts into the city.  The blue line train was taking forever.  I can take a yellow line to L’Enfant Plaza, which by-passes Foggy Bottom.  I then have to change trains and back-track through the city to Foggy Bottom.  It’s not my favorite route, but sometimes I just cannot wait.  I had to do that one day.  I walked onto the crowded blue line train in L’Enfant Plaza and nearly tripped over a baby stroller that was sticking out from under someone’s seat.  A man with a baby on his lap apologized to me and told the child sitting across from him (clearly his other child) to make sure she kept the stroller folded and under the seat.  I told him it was fine and stood there tuning him out for the rest of the ride. 

Shortly into the ride, I felt a tug on the front of my jacket.  I looked down and this adorable little girl who was maybe ten months old with cute brown eyes and little brown pigtails looked up and smiled at me through her pacifier.  She reached up with one hand and took the pacifier out of her mouth and curled her cute little fingers on her other hand into a small wave.  She smiled again and said “hi.” 

What could I do.  I felt the commuter veneer of indifference melt away and I smiled and said “hello” back to her.  Her father immediately corrected her and said, “Leave the nice lady alone.”  I just smiled back and said, “She’s just fine.”

Days Like These

I sure have been writing all of wonderfully positive posts recently.  Maybe the rain in DC today has me feeling kind of glum, but I feel the need to write a counter post of sorts.

I do not want to imply that everything I have experienced these past few months has been  unbelievably positive.  It is true that I feel great.  I have lost 88 pounds.  I fit into a size 20, which is down quite a bit from the 26-32 range I was originally.  I look better.  My blood pressure is controlled without meds.  I can breathe. I can walk.  I can breathe and walk at the same time!  Life is good and I feel good.

Part of why I started this blog was to give a realistic picture of what losing weight by having a gastric by-pass is really like.  There are a lot of great things happening that I love.  I do not have to stress about eating too much.  That pretty much takes care of itself.  I am losing weight pretty much effortlessly.  There are also some things that are a struggle, however.

HAIR

Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that I am shedding a lot of hair.  I am starting to freak out.  I know that many people who have had a gastric by-pass suffer tremendous hair loss and start showing bald spots.  I have been very worried about this.  I am diligent about my protein intake and my vitamins.  I though that I had managed to stave off any significant hair loss.  It could just be now that spring is coming, I am just doing some natural shedding in preparation for warmer weather, but I am very worried.

I made a few changes over the past month in how I get my protein and vitamins, which could be part of the problem.  I have been eating more protein bars instead of drinking shakes.  Pure Protein makes several very good protein bars.  I sometimes like eating them for two reasons.  One, less cans.  I hate drinking stuff out of a can.  Such a waste.  Yes, I recycle them, but still.  Two because they help in staving off hunger sometimes.  They are a little lower in protein, but not significantly.  I also changed my b-12 vitamin.  I was doing the melt-aways, but I got a good deal on the chewable kind.  Turns out, that may not have been a good idea.  Apparently,  you do not absorb as much of the b-12 in a chewable form.  I also ran out of the biotin shampoo and have been using regular shampoo and the biotin conditioner.

I have given up the protein bars and returned to the Pure Protein shakes.  I am heartened by the fact that I can by a large tub of Pure Protein powder at a store called Wegman’s.  Yeah, it’s a high-end fru-fru type grocery store, but a 16oz tub of the Pure Protein powder is only $9.99, which is much cheaper than buying it in can form anyway.  I also bought some more Unjury chicken broth protein.

In addition, I went back to the melt-away form of b-12.  The b-12 I bought also has folic acid and biotin.  I still need to buy more biotin shampoo, but I think I have enough conditioner to see me through until I get online and order some.

Constipation

I am still suffering through bouts of constipation.  I have been taking a stool softener sometimes and for emergencies, I do take Dulcolax suppositories.  I hate taking the Ducolax.  I have to be at home when I take that, which means if I have constipation during the day, I have to suffer until I get home.  Constipation is quite painful and even using the suppositories are painful.  Once I am done, however, I feel so much better.

I just do  not know why I keep getting constipation.  Maybe I am not getting enough fiber or liquid.  Who knows.

I suggested to a friend that maybe I was eating too much meat.  She immediately replied, “Yes, you are.”

I came back with, “But you do not see what I eat, how would you know?”

She answered, “You’re eating meat.  I’m sure it’s too much.  You should have more lentils and spinach.”

Now how could I argue with that.  She’s not a vegetarian, but she fully believes in the curative properties of vegetables, so I shall defer to her expertise and eat more lentils and spinach along with drinking luke-warm water and massaging my belly,  (her other suggestions for dealing with constipation).

I am really getting tired of dealing with this.  I was pretty sick and uncomfortable this week because of it, which is why I have not been up to blogging much.  I am doing better now, but  am still in a little bit of pain.  My stomach is a little bit sore even and I find I am not that hungry at all.  I really have to force myself to eat.  It’s kind of irritating.

I am also getting a little bit worried about having to use a supplement to go regularly.  I do not want to become dependent on them.  Plus, the pain and discomfort is so horrible, I can kind of understand how someone can develop a dependency on that feeling of release when you finally do clear up the problem.  It is such a relief and I feel so cleansed afterwards.  I can almost understand how someone with bulimia can become addicted to that feeling.  I would hate to go through all of this only to replace one eating disorder with another.  I have an appointment with the surgeon next month.  I am going to discuss it with him.

Coordination

I was never one anybody in their right mind would ever call graceful.  My mother used to joke when I was younger that after all, she did not name me Grace.  But as I am losing weight, I find that I have become even more clumsy than before knocking everything over, bumping into stuff, and dropping things.

The other day, I was walking to the Metro station after work, trotting along at a pretty good pace, feeling pretty good that I can walk to / from the Metro station every day and not get out of breath at all.  I went to step up on a curb after crossing the street, and BAM!  I was face down on the pavement.  I smacked the crap out of my knee and the laptop that I was carrying cross-body fashion hit me in the back of the head.  Fortunately, it did not hit me hard, but still.

I wish I could say my pride was hurt more than anything else, but I was really afraid I had done some serious damage to my knee.  A nice gentleman helped me up off of the ground and offered to call an ambulance.  I declined the offer, but he insisted on at least a cab.  I declined that as well, but came to my senses a few minutes later and hailed one myself.

Fortunately, my knee is fine.  Just slightly bruised.  My shin is a little sore and pretty scraped up.  And my head is fine, well at least as fine as it was before the fall.  It is my hope that after I reach a somewhat normal weight, I will get used to how I feel inside my own body and will be slightly less of a klutz.

Clothes

I am getting kind of tired of the whole clothes situation.  Most of my clothes are too big for me.  I did purge my wardrobe of anything larger than a size 24.  Now I am going to get rid of the 24s as well.  That will leave me with just clothes int he 20-22 range.  And I will be down to one pair of jeans and two pairs of yoga pants.  Not good.

I feel like I am at a crossroads.  I do not have enough clothes that fit me, and I do not want to spend any more money on clothes that I will only be able to wear for a few months at most.  I have decided that I will buy a few outfits.  I am not happy about it, but I am going to do it.  I need new pants and skirts to get me through the next few months.  And I need some new blouses and tops.

My sister gave me a gift card for my birthday and I bought a cute dress and a cardigan sweater.  I need sweaters these days.  Soon, it will be too warm for a jacket and I feel I need a sweater to get me through from spring to summer.

OK, I think that will be enough whining for now.  I did have a fairly rough week, which I think has really left me feeling exhausted.  I am looking forward to a good weekend, though.  St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday.  I love St. Patty’s Day.  There will be no green beer on the menu, which s good because I never could stomach green beer, but I will wear green and a button that says, “Kiss Me I’m Irish”.  Who knows, maybe somebody will.

I will be celebrating my sister’s birthday with the family tonight.  I am picking up her gluten-free vegan chocolate birthday cake, which I cannot eat, and we have having dinner at Carabbas, my sister’s favorite restaurant.  They actually have a gluten-free menu.  Her favorite dish, the Chicken Bryan, is on that menu.  She will have a very good night.  I have not had the Chicken Bryan in years, and now that I can eat cheese, I may have it too.

Happy St. Patty’s Day everyone!

Being Prepared: It Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Now that I am working at an office again, I have to spend a lot of time preparing and being ready for my day as far as food and vitamins go.  Staying on schedule as far as food/drink/protein/vitamins is very important post surgery. 

When I worked from home, it was pretty much a no-brainer.  I could cook when I want.  Take my vitamins and drink my protein as necessary.  Everything was right there with me.  It was easy.

Now I have to make sure that I have two protein supplements, all of my vitamins for the day, my lunch for the day, and money to purchase food in case I forgot something.  Not to mention, I have to factor in a 30 minute breakfast window into my morning routine.  I normally just barely have time to shower, dry my hair, style my hair, get dressed – keeping in mind that he getting dressed portion of my routine includes squeezing myself into some Spanx – find everything I need to take with me and dash out the door in time to catch the bus to the metro.  Now I have to take 30 minutes to have breakfast?  What a P.I.T.A.

I tried eating breakfast while I dry my hair and get dressed, but that has not been working out too well.  I start eating and then forget I was eating and end up throwing it away.  Or I eat too fast and get a stomach ache.  Not good.

I could wait to get to work to have breakfast.  If I do that, I have to carry one additional meal with me on the Metro.  Plus that puts my breakfast too close to lunch.  So, I either put off lunch until later in the day, have my meals too close together, don’t get enough water in, skip a protein supplement so that I’m not too full for lunch, or some combination of the aforementioned.  It just throws my whole schedule off if I wait. 

It has been a struggle to get the combination right, but I think I have a good system going.  I have also done some things to help me streamline the morning process.  I pick out my clothes the night before.  I prepare at least 3-4 days of breakfast and set it aside in refrigerator to only be used for breakfast.  I make 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, small pot of oatmeal, and some kind of fruit.  I also keep extra non-fat plain greek yogurts handy just in case.  I make my lunches ahead of time too.  Then I pack up everything I think I might need; laptop, keys, vitamins, protein supplements, etc.   In the am there is less gathering and less prep work.

Here was my am schedule last week:

  1. 6:30am  – wake up and shower
  2. 6:50am  – dry hair
  3. 7:10am – get dressed
  4. 7:20am – gather everything I need
  5. 7:30am – dash out door

Here is my new and improved schedule for this week:

  1. 6:00am – eat breakfast
  2. 6:30am – shower
  3. 6:50am – dry hair
  4. 7:10am – get dressed
  5. 7:20am – gather everything I need
  6. 7:30am – dash out door

In between all of this in my crazy morning routine, my sister calls me nearly every day.  We have our daily sister-chat in the morning otherwise we would never have time to fit in a good gossip.  Some times we talk for a full 30 minutes, but most days, we barely have 5-10 minutes to talk.  It’s quality not quantity that counts right?

I hate getting up at 6:00am.  It is so early, but I found I had to make starting my eating schedule off properly a priority.  Some days this may shift a bit as I have some flexibility with my starting time.  And days like yesterday where the government was closed, I can work from home which helps. 

I just cannot afford to lose focus just because I am working in an actual office now.  Staying on the proper food/water/protein/vitamin schedule is too important if I want to continue successfully losing weight.

 

Commuting in DC

metro

So, now that I am able to walk some more, commuting to DC is not the hassle it was a year ago.

When I used to work in DC at a client site, my office was located about a block and a half from the nearest Metro station.  I also had to walk across the street from my apartment building to catch a bus.  I did not have to walk a lot, but it was still more than I could handle.  I had to sit when I arrived at the bus stop.  After I got off the Metro in DC, I had to stop at least twice to rest my back before getting to the office.  It was awful.

Now, I am back to working in DC and no longer working from home.  My office is nowhere near a Metro station.  It is at least 5.5 blocks from the nearest station. Well, OK that’s not entirely true.  There are two stops that are about 4 blocks from the office, but then I have to go two stops out of my way and take another train, and the stop where I change trains is still adds another two stops to my trip.  It’s worth the extra block to not have to change trains and keep my metro stops down to three stations.

Five blocks are really not that far.  Normal people walk this much all of the time without even a thought.  I used to before I became so morbidly obese.  Now that I have lost 81 pounds, (OMG 81!!!!!), walking this much is easy.

I am also standing pretty much from the minute I leave my apartment until I get to the office.  I stand out in front of my building to wait for the bus…OK that’s not true.  I sometimes sit at the bus stop.  But once I get on the bus, I stand until I get to the metro station because there is often not a seat.  Then the metro train is so full, I stand for the three whole stops until I can pry myself out of the train.  There is not even time or quite frankly the room to read anything on my kindle app.  Seriously, some days you need a shoe horn to get people out of there we are packed in so tightly.  Then I fight to get up the escalators and out of the station before I begin my hike to the office.

Sometimes, I go to the little French café (where they play middle eastern music, btw…not that I mind middle eastern music, it’s just that Americans have fanciful notions that every French café should be playing Edith Piaf singing Non Je Ne Regrette Rien all day long, but I digress), that is next to my office to get a cup of decaf.  There I sit and enjoy my last moments of solitude before entering the snake pit.

Honestly, the three stops are not bad.  Even the 5.5 block walk to the office is not bad.  I just hate being crammed on the train with about 10,000 other people with nowhere to move or breathe.  I am convinced with every jerk of the train that I will lose my balance and fall into the person next to me.  There is no real room to fall, so I would probably just body slam into the person next to me and cause people to tumble into one another like dominos.  Then there is the constant stopping and waiting for no reason without explanation.  And I haven’t even mentioned the broken escalators and elevators.  The train ride is stressful.  I thank God I only have to go three stops.

I am also thankful that I can do it relatively pain-free.  I still have some pain in my feet.  And occasionally my knees and back hurt a little.  But for the most part, I am enjoying the fact that I can do this.

Two other points…I lost 81 pounds!!!!  Omg I can hardly believe it!

The other thing I wanted to mention, I kind of put on my Facebook Page yesterday.  Yesterday, upon exiting the Metro station in DC, I ran into a friend of mine whom I have not seen in about two years.  She had a gastric by-pass 9 years ago.  We used to work together.  She looks great.  I also did not know her before the surgery.  She told me over and over again that she has no regrets.  I thought about her often before and since my surgery.

Well, I saw her and walked right up to her and made eye contact and she looked at me like she has never seen me before.  Then I told her who I was and seriously, her jaw dropped.  She asked me what I had been up to so I told her that I had the surgery.  We only had a moment to talk because we were both in the mad-commuter-rush-to-work mindset, but she told me that I looked great.  I have her email address, so I am going to send her an email.  I need to tell her how her experience really helped me make my decision when I reached my breaking point.  I may not have been ready to do it when she and I talked in the past, but I thought of her often through everything I have experienced.