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This Is How I Roll – Desperately Seeking Slender in Vegas

There are a million things I should be doing right now other than writing this blog. Maybe not millions, but a ton. Studying for my PT Certification that I feel I am nowhere near ready for, at the gym working on that perfect form I am going to need, helping my Godfather with his house project… the list goes on and on.  I can always find something I should be doing now that I am thin enough to maintain healthy fitness.

But still I find myself drawn here, where I share my journey with you, whether it’s good bad or indifferent, that is what I’ve always been about. We’ve been through a lot together since I started this journey, but now, we embark on dangerous territory.. I must participate in … drum roll please … the social game.
I am just a little over a week for leaving for the WLSFA Las Vegas Event. Now while I am nobody particularly special to this organization, I will say that my involvement with them since last October has taught me that sometimes the little people do a lot that goes unnoticed.
For this Las Vegas event, Laura Van Tuyl and I were literally working around each other’s schedules and doing things we had to do at the last possible moment just because of how busy we both were. She needed some help with some of the projects on her agenda for the event. From the swag bags at the Carnie VIP Lunch to the graphic images on the charms that will be sold and even so far as to working together on an entirely different WLSFA PNW Chapter Project, almost the entire time that life has been dragging me all over the country to take care of people I love, Laura was right there with me. Not only helping me and giving me advice when life got rough but dealing with her own traveling, personal life as well as doing all the WLSFA work that she does. I am literally amazed at how much of her time Laura gives to the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, it is outstanding really. I’ve never met anyone that wants to give back as much as I do until I met some of the women at the WLSFA.
I talk a lot about some of the Ladies that have positively impacted my life in ways that I can never repay just by caring about me, seeing potential in me and encouraging me. Let me talk for a moment about my dear friend Yvonne McCarthy from Bariatric Girl– Several years ago, before my insurance would approve my Gastric Bypass, I wrote Yvonne a six page letter asking her for help because I had nowhere to turn. I’d never heard back from Yvonne, I figured I wasn’t important enough to get her attention or like all the other “celebrities” I’d written, ( Because that’s what she was to me, a WLS celebrity ) my story wasn’t special enough to get her attention. When I saw Yvonne at the OAC Convention in Dallas last October I was really put off by this, I didn’t want to introduce myself or talk to her because I felt she had ignored me. Encouraged by Diana Lyn, I approached Yvonne and told her who I was, about my letter and about her not responding. I have never seen a woman so beside herself that she missed an email in my entire life. 564711_10200840649757685_2055684940_nSince then Yvonne has been one of the dearest friends I have made and stands in a group of women who have supported me in ways they may never even realize. All it takes is a sad blog post or an update on Facebook that I am having a bad day or struggling and I have a text from Yvonne asking me to call so she can check on me.  It’s not often that I put negativity out there, I really try to stay positive about everything, but bad things happen to us once in a while and can get us down and break our hearts, and when that happens I tend to let it leak out a little. Yvonne picks up on it right away, and always knows that whatever I am actually saying aloud, it’s probable a lot worse than I have shared yet, because I keep that stuff very close chested. When I got the opportunity to get together with Yvonne for lunch and shopping in Dallas last month, not only did she insist on buying my lunch, but also my dress for Vegas. She is such a kind-hearted and giving individual I cannot help but love her. She’s taught me to be myself, to see the positive in as much as I can, and to appreciate what I have and not dwell on what I don’t. ( Even if that last part is a lesson I am constantly working on. )
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Then there is Sandi Henderson, who let me tell you, I wish this woman was my Mother, if I had this woman in my corner sooner I think I would have been someone big in this world. She is constantly there to remind me I can do something, to remind me to stand up, fight and make noise as I am put in positions where I can advocate for this community. She encourages me to be the best that I can be, and anytime I ask for help, anytime I put my hand out and say, please stand with me on this I need support, she is one of the women that will be the first to dig her feet in the sand and reach out to her social media network to help me.  I knew that Sandi was going to be special to me when we first met at the OAC Convention in October and I had decided to make the Walk From Obesity my first official 5K run. I was running around and stopped for a moment to catch a breath and fell in next to Sandy so I could talk to her and one of the Sponsor Representatives on the sidelines called out, “Hey Pandora you are supposed to be running why are you walking?” Sandi turned around and said “That is NOT a Positive Message and that is NOT how you encourage someone,” – I fell in love with Sandi right then and there. I’d walk a mile or twenty-five for or with this woman any day she asked me to.
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Then there is Rain Hampton, who is now working with the WLSFA So California Chapter, doing amazing things with fundraisers and young new chapter. Rain Hampton is, quite honestly, the reason this community has a Pandora in it. I don’t mean that to sound full of myself at all but honestly it was my friendship with two people who I met at the OAC Convention in October that forever cemented in me the desires I already had to reach out and try to help this community in their weight loss journeys, Rain and Joy, Rain helped me figure out who I wanted to be and where I was going to go and how to play Switzerland and THAT helped me figure out the direction of Desperately Seeking Slender. Then it was Joy, her place in her journey, how much of me I saw in her and the instant emotional connection that we had that ensured that I would forever work to help people in this community that wanted it. If there is one Joy in my life for every year I continue to have my blog I will be a happy person a blessed friend. Unfortunately Joy won’t be in Vegas, but we are rooming together in August for the OAC Convention.
There are so many people who have come in to my life because of my blog, my attendance at the OAC Convention and my desire to help others and be a part of things like the OAC and the WLSFA. So many people who have encourage my desires for a new career as a personal trainer with an emphasis on Bariatric Fitness and Weight Loss. I could never list them all in one blog. I have to bring them up a little at a time. The ones I talked about today are all part of the WLSFA and a huge part of this Vegas trip I leave for a week from Thursday.
Today, I was informed that I was pretty much going to hate Vegas by a good friend of mine on Facebook. She told me that Vegas was notoriously clicky and that it breeds exclusivity. Well folks, guess what, that isn’t how this Seeker rolls, so I’m going to squash it pretty quickly by saying this…
ANYONE is welcome ANYWHERE I go outside of my hotel room and WLSFA Stuff in Vegas. So… if you want an exclusive environment, don’t invite me. I’m likely to tweet where I am to #DSSeekers and let anyone that follows me on Twitter know so they can join or post it on Facebook. I don’t believe in being exclusive, I didn’t drive all the way to CA from Oregon and decide to go to a WLS Vegas Party so I could go play secret society with my BFFs, I came to have fun with the WLS Crowd and by that I mean EVERYONE. I don’t have a lot of money to go do fancy things, so most of my time will likely be spent checking out casino scenery, walking the strip just because I can, playing some nickel slots in honor of my Father, and just being social with the people who I came all this way to meet, greet and get to know. There are before and after photos I can’t wait to see, people I can’t wait to hug, and stories I can’t wait to hear, because I KNOW you all have them to share.
This last picture is a photo of my favorite Teach, Ms. Karyn and some of my friends from the week I studied at the Cooper Institute in Dallas Texas to prepare for my Personal Trainer’s Certification Test. I like to gather together people who smile and throw their hands up in the air for me like this \O/ So make sure you come see me and we get a picture for my blog!
I believe that I can participate in this event and not fall prey to the Social Status, High School Environment social nightmare that I so often say I hate. No matter what size you are, what gender you are, how much you love or hate exercise, or where you are in your weight loss journey, you and I can find something to talk about and something to share with each other, I promise. I’d love to meet you. I’ll be participating in whatever social media the WLSFA has set up and using my own #DSSeekers tag as well on Twitter and of course you can like Desperately Seeking Slender on Facebook or just friend me personally and keep up with me there! I will also be hosting a peer-to-peer table discussion at the event on “Plastic Surgery from the Patient Perspective.” So be sure to sign up for it when you register if it is a topic that interests you! I’d love to meet you! #Inclusive #WLSFun #DSSeekers #WLSFA #ILOVETHISCOMMUNITY
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A Bucket List Moment – Meeting Chris Powell

There are times when I can’t begin to figure out where to start…

My Father’s remains are in my car after my trip to Los Angels where I helped my Mother move out of the house that my parents had lived in my entire life and said good-bye to the one place, that no matter what memories it held that haunted me, I always knew I had to go back to if I needed it.

It’s been almost two years now since my Father passed away and inevitably my relationship with my Father seems to constantly put me in the right place at the right time. As I left for California a friend on Facebook asked “What do you do for a living Pandora, you are always traveling.” It’s strange the misconceptions people get sometimes, often we think someone is out gallivanting around and having fun when the truth is, life is falling apart all around them.

Things haven’t been easy for me this year, good yes, easy no. It’s been one of the most heart breaking years of my life. In January I pretty much wrote off the rest of my Family when I realized that no matter what ever happens, the drama that happens in that family will never be something that I can pull myself far enough away from without disengaging myself from it completely.

I spent the first couple months of the year recovering from my reconstructive thigh surgery, and what should have been five months full of me studying for my Personal Trainer’s certification turned into a much different adventure when my three-week “vacation” in March turned into something I didn’t expect. – There are some people who have been such an amazing part of my life, my chosen family if you will, and if they ever need anything, and call on me, I am there, no matter what. But the next few months had a lot of those people needing my help and I wasn’t really expecting it.

I wasn’t expecting to rush from Ohio to Dallas to help my friend deal with her Mother dying of cancer in an 11 day period from diagnosis to passing, I wasn’t expecting to take my course at the Cooper Institute without finishing all the reading in the book because I forgot to reschedule and just happened to be there. I wasn’t expecting to rush back to Ohio a couple of weeks later when Heather’s Step Father lost his 15+ year battle against MS and Parkinson’s to be there for her and her Family and I sure wasn’t expecting for my Mother to decide to move in the middle of those eight weeks.

I literally had two days at home, one of which I spent primarily finishing up graphics projects for the WLSFA event in Vegas before I had to unpack, re-pack, pay some bills and grab the puppy before we were headed off to California to pick up my Father’s ashes and help my Godfather Tom, run his annual Maserati Rally before digging our hands into a house project that he needed help with. After losing my Father two years ago, I never say no when someone like my Godfather needs me, no matter how much of my own life I have to adjust to make it happen. He’s 71-years-old and I know I might not have him for that much longer, so he is a high priority in my life.

Going back to the house that I grew up in for the first time after my Father was gone, was hard for me. I had walked out of that house the moment he passed away and never gone back inside. There were a lot of tears and bitter-sweet moments in that for me. Putting his ashes in my car was hard, knowing that I was taking my Father away from the only place he had ever called home in my life was a difficult task for me. Seeing all the memories and pieces of my life that were left behind because my Mother couldn’t take them was an emotionally shattering moment in my life.

To top this all off, I had also just received the news that my insurance won’t cover the final stage of plastic surgery I need to get my body back to where I am going to be happy with it after surgery. This has been a devastating blow to me, not something I am likely to get over anytime soon. My insurance will no doubt be paying for the mental health sessions I am going to need to figure out my way through this before it is all over, but I guess that won’t cost them as much, so they’ll be ok with that.

Exercising in LA was hard for me. Eating was easy and grazing as I stuffed my emotions with food exactly the way I used too, was a bad habit that was kicking back in for me while I was in LA. Sometimes when things get too emotionally heavy, we fall back on old habits… But just as I was starting to fall into the darkness, life threw me the answer I needed. It offered me a chance to meet my hero, Chris Powell and his amazing wife Heidi.

I could have cried when I met Chris and Heidi, it was absolutely amazing. I was so scared that I’d turn into a blubbering fool if I really opened up that I didn’t dare tell either of them what all was going on in my life at that moment, it didn’t matter, what mattered was that yet again, when I needed Chris and Heidi most, life found a way to put me in their path.

I jumped all over the opportunity to attend the ABC Extreme Make-Over Finale for Mehrbod at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood when I saw it posted on Facebook. In fact, I stayed in LA three extra days that I probably shouldn’t have in order to be able to go. This also made it so that I was there for more of my Mother’s move, and able to go through some of the stuff she left behind to make sure that things like old family photos didn’t end up in piles of junk that was taken to the dump or set out in boxes at a garage sale.

A Photo from the Finale that Heidi Powell posted on Facebook. Wait till you get to see Mehrbod now on May 28th, 2013 on ABC Extreme Make-Over Weight Loss Edition

I wasn’t sure if I would actually get the opportunity to meet Chris Powell, but I knew I would get the opportunity to see him live on stage and I knew that would be amazing in and of itself. Seeing my hero in action… what could be better. Okay, meeting him could be better, and it was. When I first walked up to Chris Powell he was talking to someone else and taking photos with them and he looked over at me, stopped for a moment smiled and said “Hey, I know who you are!” Then he went back to taking photos and when he was done and I walked over, he wrapped his arms around me in a big hug and said “It’s great to finally meet you.” By this point I was a little bit star struck, and I honestly can’t remember the entire conversation, but a few pieces of it stand out a bit. Chris Powell told me how proud he was of everything that I had accomplished, how much he appreciated me staying the extra few days in LA to come to the Finale, and how impressed he was with my determination to pay it forward. He told me that his favorite quote is by Gandhi “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” and he said that he saw me doing that. He told me that I looked amazing, and asked me how it felt, and reminded me that from here on out, I don’t really even have to say anything to people, that they will see how far I have come, what I have accomplished and how good I look, and just start asking me what I have done to get there.

I got the opportunity to take a picture with Chris, and then I had the opportunity to meet his wife Heidi Powell. You want to talk about an amazing human being! I have never met a woman that exuded kindness the way Heidi Powell does. She is just one of those people who when you first meet them, you think, “What a kind-hearted soul and generous nature she has.” Of course I should have known this already, it must take such a special woman to share her husband with the world the way she shares Chris, and it was so touching to me when she and I had the chance to talk about our Father’s passing away. I had no idea until a post on her Facebook page a short time ago that our Father’s had passed away so close to each other, but Heidi and I had a few moments to talk about our Fathers and about how losing someone so monumental in your life can change it so much.  Heidi mentioned how it made her appreciate her time with Chris so much more, and how it made her fear losing him every time he traveled without her and I got a chance to share with Heidi how much Chris coming in and telling me he was proud of me once my Father was gone and could no longer do it had really saved me.

It was very interesting, because during the Finale, Chris talked a lot about “Falling without Failing,” the ability to fall off track without failing and ruining all the hard work you have accomplished so far. I guarantee if you watch the finale for Mehrbod when it airs you will hear a lot about this. I found it so interesting because quite honestly I was at a point that I was falling, for the first time since my weight loss I saw a weight gain of 10 lb. on my scale and instead of my normal panic that would set in and make me start working hard to get back on track, the depression of the bad news about the remainder of my skin removal surgeries had set me in a tail spin where for the first time I found myself thinking “What does it matter, I’m always going to look like this and I’m never going to be who I want to be or do what I want to do because of it.”

Then all of a sudden there was Chris and Heidi Powell. giving me hugs, thanking me for coming to meet them, telling me how great I looked and what a great job I had done. Then the next day, Chris went on Facebook and responded to a post I had made talking about how great it was to meet him and said, “It was wonderful to meet you! Keep up all you are doing. I would love to hear how your training goes.” – Heidi came in right behind him with “It was so fun to meet you in person Pandora! Wasn’t it an amazing transformation?” – Heidi had also thanked me the night before for all the updates I send them, and they both asked me to keep in touch.

I call Chris Powell my hero and it’s not something I say lightly. There are very few people in the world today that I believe live up to my expectations of a hero, Chris Powell is hands down one of them. In the two short years since my Father has died, Chris has single handily pulled me out of two of the darkest moments of my journey, one with a letter and virtual pep talk, and one with a hug and the promise of being interested in what I am doing to help other’s fight obesity.

There are not many celebrities that I look up to, admire, or say “I want to be like that when I grow up,” Chris Powell is one though, and when I say “Grow-Up” I’m talking about my wimpy little Cardio Queen no weight training muscles. But I have plans to fix that between June and October when I am doing more studying at the Cooper Institute, working with some trainers in Dallas to get some experience under my belt and taking on my own weight training program as if I were my own client.

Thank you Chris and Heidi Powell for such an amazing experience, meeting you in person was as awesome, moving and motivational as I expected it to be. You are both so special to me. <3

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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