Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May Things 2017

This has been a funny month.  Last year, the school I worked for in NYC didn't finish school until June 26. This year, the university I work for was finished by approximately May 12 and graduation was on Mother's Day.  The academic calendar is a funny thing.

1. Harris is fabulous.  We went to Dallas this past week and he made his 5th round trip flight (14th take off and landing) and spent his 13th night in a hotel.  He's doing good and is quite the sturdy little traveler.  He's set foot in over 12 states and flown over another (about) 5 more. Next week, we add to the pile with another trip to Kansas.

Life on our little mountain is quiet right now - students are gone and our population has gone from 1800 students + 1300 citizens to basically just the 1300 citizens. Summer school and the Sewanee Summer Music Festival start after Memorial Day, I will gladly welcome the extra foot traffic back to the mountain!

Until then...Off to the Land of Oz. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Under the VSG knife.

I typed in about 4 post titles and for right now I'm going to leave "under the knife" as the title to this post. So, as one might imagine this might indicate that I'm going to have surgery.  If your nose and previous knowledge pointed you to that, you would, in fact, be correct. 

On April 17th a mere 12 days from now, I'm going to have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. In short, VSG. One of the first things many people say in response is, "well I trust you've researched this and know this is the best option for you" or some variation on that point.  This is surprising to me because any person I've told, obviously they are someone I do know well and they should know me well enough to know that I do my homework and if my highly anxious self is willing to have a surgery, it has come to {surgery} this as the only remaining option. Or, subsequently, being overweight and being able to do nothing about it.  Nothing about it you say?  Yes that's correct. I have documented medical treatment and attempts for the past 6-7 years of trying to not be obese. If you've been a reader of this blog you know that approximately 6 years ago I was part of a medical research study at University of Tennessee. For 6 months they gave me all of my food, I had weekly check ups, I abide by their every word on what to do. I did lose weight. And, at the conclusion of that study, it was discovered that I likely had PCOS. Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is no baby game. It's awful. It's hard. It's emotional. It hurts your body. It eliminates your ability to deal with insulin. It's a monster.
Flash forward these many years later, I'm done with it. Hearing the doctor say at one of my latest appointments that he thinks "the PCOS will entirely go away" was absolute music to my ears. And I'm a strict critic on what's music to my ears.

I am now on day 3 of my 14 day pre-operation liver diet.  It's not easy. Going cold turkey on all chewable foods is really tough.  Occasionally, I'll see in discussion boards people that think folks who have bariatric surgery are taking the easy road.  I will wildly beg to differ.  Getting to the point you get to have a surgery date for bariatric surgery is a lot of work.  Ever wonder what goes into it?
Here's what you have to do:
1. Find a bariatric surgeon you're comfortable with and that is close to your house. If they're not close by everything else just gets really complicated.
2. Attend an information meeting at your chosen bariatric clinic.
3. Find out if your insurance will pay for the surgery. If it does not, they you have to figure out if you can finance it through any of the clinic options.  If your insurance does pay for it then your list of steps gets way longer. My insurance did not pay for it. I am cash paying. This is a double edge sword. If your insurance pays for it, it takes on average of 6-8 months longer to get a surgery date. If you cash pay then this is what happens next...
4. You attend a group/support class. During this approximately 5 hours class, you also get instruction from a licensed nutritionist how to not only prepare for the surgery but what happens after surgery.
5. You have a psych evaluation with a social worker.  The social worker I met with was at the hospital and focuses in this specific area (weight loss/eating disorders/morbid obesity).
6. Radiology appointment.  This was fascinating.  Probably my favorite appointment. You drink a variety of liquids. The Radiologist watches how you swallow, how your stomach reacts, looks to see if/how your body deals with acid reflux/indigestion and so on. Really cool appointment.
7. Meeting with the Chattanooga Bariatric Nurse Practitioner.  This appointment was the last one I had and it cleared me for surgery. We also discusses all of the medical ins-outs.
8. I applied for/got my surgery date.  Fortunately, you can make this request.  Because this surgery is out patient, you need to be able to deal with the pain/rest/balance how to get through the initial time following surgery.
9. Meeting with the surgeon. I must admit that felt pretty good to get through all those hoops to finally get the appointment with the surgeon.

During my final appointment at the clinic, the clinic staff also gave me the schedule for what would happen day of surgery (the time line) and then told me I would come back to the clinic the morning after for IV fluids (if needed).

Is this laborious. Yes. it absolutely is.  Is it practically a godsend to my person.  Yes it is.

As I shared above, I am now on day 3 of 14 days of liquids. 

This is tough.

I'm a little bit grumpy. 

I want something else to eat, etc.

What I wouldn't do for some eggs right now. Which is odd because I'm already consuming a huge amount of protein.

If you are interested in following my journey. Check me out on instagram @vsg_hilary.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

October happenings (a lost post from 2016)

I just noticed this post in my drafts section. . . I never did post it. 
Here are photos from October of 2016.

Where did 2016 go?

Quite seriously? Where did 2016 go? I didn't blog for an entire year. Well more really, because my last post is from fall 2016 and now it's spring 2017.

So here's what happened over the past 16 months.

#1. We had a baby.  He's magical and was born on August 26, 2016. If you follow my instagram you know that he is already a social media presence. Yes, I'm that parent. BUT, that account is his
"21st century baby book" and has a private, select audience.  None the less, you can still see him on my feed @hilarydowward

#2. I moved back to Tennessee. But this time to the wayyyy other side.  I now live on the Atlanta side of Tennessee instead of the Dallas side of Tennessee. Yes, it's a super long state.
What are we doing here you ask? Dr. Professor Mr. Ward got a job. A job that had been occupied for approximately 40 years and hadn't been open in my lifetime and he applied and got it. So, now we live here. What am I doing here you ask? I'm a Visiting Assistant Professor and faculty sponsor of the university radio station.  (Remember, radio is kind of a "thang" I enjoy.)

#3 while writing this post I get to add two new hashtags. #sewanee and #babyHarris.

I am going to do better in typing up blog posts. I love the documentation I've made over the years. It was fun to read it today and think of all the things that have happened.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

1 month as a new yorker

4 delightful weeks as a New York city dweller have passed.  Hard to believe. It went by quickly. And, was a delight.  The seasons are starting to change and the mighty musky mornings of subway humidity are something we can practically kiss goodbye. Fall is at the doorstep and I will gladly welcome it in.  July was so nice - the subway stink wasn't even on my radar.  As we moved into August...GOOD-NESS! Hello hotness in a giant way! My weekends have been full of exploration, and big naps! This school day biz is nothing to sneeze at! The kiddies surely can wear a gal out!

Sunday Exploration - Kate Spade Flagship on Broome in SOHO

After new student orientation at school - week three of in service

During week 2 of in service

During the first day of school - 5th graders in the gym

I am STILL a doctoral student at University of Memphis - This is hopefully my last semester of classes. Thankfully for SKYPE, I dial in for class and the learning continues and instead of sitting next to my "wolf pack" cohort in class - class looks like this...
On the personal front....
I am the proud keeper of a giant stack of apartment keys.

And they open all the right doors in this beautiful brownstone!

...on a tree lined street that looks like this...
(this isn't actually my block - it's one a few over)

It's funny how time can change plans. As of July 1, 2015 we were set to move into this house on Labor Day weekend (approximately 2 months later)...and instead I moved to NYC. Time is a funny "thing" really is amazing what can happy in the span of a few days, a week, or a month!

Alas, the time wasn't right for this house...
Perhaps there will be another house, another day/week/month/year

All in all - things are great! It's still hard to believe that I'm here and doing what I love. Teaching - working with the masses, growing everyday in knowledge and with a group of humans who ask questions and desire answers, or at least have the fortitude to move towards results in some way shape and form. I enjoy being on a faculty of hard working educators from diverse backgrounds who bring a sizable volume of worldly experience with them. I enjoy being able to celebrate the cultures and rituals of various types of religions and backgrounds of the people I am now part of. I enjoy getting to actually apply what I've now spent over a decade in university studying. The desire and outcome so far, far outweighs the difficulty it took to get to this place and time. Virtually everything in my daily life is new. There's newness in my daily routine, perhaps the biggest that when I leave home in the morning I'm not climbing inside my Lexus that's parked in my heated garage, now I'm walking 8 blocks and then getting on a subway. (And yes, my legs are looking nice.) I'm living in an apartment that's approximately 1000 sq ft. as opposed to a house with 5000 sq ft. I have 1 bathroom, not 4. I have a bath tub, not a indoor salt water swimming pool and hot pool (yes, that was hard to let go of that.). I don't have a dishwasher, I don't have a washer and dryer (although I'm totally fine with the later because the "fluff and fold" is the best thing EVER. I may never do laundry again). I hardly cook - but then again I didn't really in Memphis either. For the first time in approximately 8 years, I'm living without a piano of any kind. This is maybe the hardest amongst the amenities that I'd grown accustomed to in daily life. In fact, I haven't even played a piano now in over a month! This, obviously, is something I'm working to fix, but none the less is perhaps the longest I've gone EVER not playing. Yes my fingers itch to play and I have songs in my head basically all the time. My days are longer and usually include some sort of deep breath exercise at some juncture in the day, but, I love it, and am so very, very happy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My first week as a "New Yorker"

So as I shared yesterday, I now live in Brooklyn. 7 weeks ago tomorrow, I came to Brooklyn for the first time to visit the illustrious place called Williamsburg. Naturally, coming from another part of all looked scary. Honestly. I was a wimp. As it turns out, Brooklyn is lovely and were it a stand alone city, it would be the 4th largest in the US. So, yes, that is also cool.  Lots going on in T-H-E Brooklyn. Thankfully I've secured a perfectly lovely apartment for which I may have to live in forever because the apartment rent in this area is going through the roof. Fortunately, per my post yesterday, you can see it is a delightful apartment. At 900 sq. ft. it also has a decent amount of space. I have access to several train lines at an easy pace from my front door and the neighborhood houses/buildings are beautiful.

So. Now. Let's discuss the fact that I now live in Brooklyn.  All I'm going to say is this...It's a long story. A story that's been in process approximately 9 years but more realistically, about 6 years.
And so to give description through singing...I give you Ariana Grande and my summer theme song.

Although, there were several mornings this week I played this song to simulate the beginning of "The Devil Wears Prada"....

So. 7 weeks, 220 hours of summer school, multiple flights via Delta (Memphis, NYC, Cleveland, Memphis, NYC, Destin, Memphis, NYC), a broker and her fees, starting a new job, I now live in Brooklyn.  So yes, it's a very long story. Just listen to Ariana singing. You'll thank me. She pumps up the "jam".

So now let's talk about my apartment. Because again, that's all anyone really wants to talk about.
Here are some funny anecdotes relating to the apartment.  How did I find the apartment you ask?
Well, I searched through Craigslist and then found Street Easy and quite literally, it was easy. So that's where I found the apartment. Once I realized where I'd be working and what time I had to be there in the morning 5 days a week, I knew that living in Manhattan wasn't realistic. Searching in Brooklyn, seemed like an even bigger task.  There is tons of gentrification going on, which is good because it is always nice to pick things up, BUT, that also means that the rent is sort of unrealistic and in many, many places more expensive than it is in Manhattan! What you do get in Brooklyn, at this point, is a bigger apartment. For the money, I was able to get 900 sq. ft. as opposed to 250-400 sq. ft. in Manhattan. I can fix little janky things but I can't fix small. Small is small is small and location doesn't fix it either.  So, once again, I say here I am in Brooklyn. I have a delightful landlord who also happens to be the owner of the brownstone and lives in. So, handy.

After I looked at about 40 apartments on line, I narrowed it down to about 8, then I narrowed it down to 2. I went to see the first apartment (which happened to be the one I chose, basically on the spot). The location was perfect for getting to school and did I mention that one of my dearest friends from high school lives about 200 yards away.  That security felt right. So I promptly messaged the broker after seeing it to rent the apartment. There was a little bit of negotiation that happened because I needed to take possession immediately (less than 7 days from the day I viewed it) as well as negotiation through the broker fee.  This broker's fee was 12% of the annual rent, we renegotiated 10% because, well, I didn't have enough money to pay 12%. That part was hard because she was fantastic and so accommodating, but I just couldn't swing 12%.  At some point, I will make this up to her, somehow, whether it be through renting another apartment with her or something...?

Now, to rent an apartment in NYC basically anywhere, there's a broker's fee. Most apartments I was interested in had a broker's fee. This seemed to range between 10%-15% of the annual rent, in addition to the first and last month's rent and the deposit.  So yes, it is basically like putting a down payment on a house. Kind of scary. So in some ways it feels like I just "closed" on an apartment.

Exactly 1 week after I saw the apartment, I "moved" into it. And in that time, I started my new job with Uncommon Schools, flew back to Memphis, packed suitcases and boxes that will arrive Labor Day week, sold over 50 pairs of shoes, and my Lexus, and then...flew back to NYC. It was a really hectic week and when I went to bed at 2am on the day I moved into the apartment, I was exhausted both emotionally and physically. It was a hard week. The good part, it is past me.

The funny part. There's more.

Okay so August in Brooklyn is ridiculously hot. Much like Memphis, but oddly different. I thought I'll be okay with no air conditioning the first night. NOT! I was going for the "tree house" set up and surely there will be a breeze.  Not so much. Fortunately, this is where the element of having a friend living 200 yards away is very helpful. He saved the day. 2 nights in a row.  What did happen though in that time is that I also learned the magic of going to buy 2 air con units and a box fan, and the super cute part where I hauled them home.  A short comedy film could have been made about me schlepping those darn things home.  The save in this story is that my landlord carried them upstairs and installed them for me. See. Good ending.  And then I had air con in the apartment, my aerobed blown up and I felt like I lived there. Also within that time, my broker's assistant (or maybe he was another broker, I couldn't tell) offered me a new mattress from Ikea because he said when he moved to NYC he had nothing. So he was paying it forward. (I too will have to do this for another someday) So he organized a task rabbit to drop it off and I paid the fella $60 to deliver it.  Worked out lovely. So the mattress went down, then the aerobed on top and bada-bing I have something that is actually like a bed. The story just keeps getting better and better. 

Alright, so now we are on day 3. Day 3 I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought some proper bedding, a extra long shower curtain, and 2 real pillows.  All I had was my airplane neck pillow.  Talk about a sad part of the story, I didn't have room in my suitcase to pack a real pillow.  Okay, be resourceful, Hilary, you worked it out. So this is the part of the story where I looked like Julie from Julie and Julia when she is schlepping groceries home from Dean and Deluca and busy that bundle of sticks and takes them home on the subway and she's hot and knocking people out with the sticks...yes that was me but not with sticks but a giant bag of pillows.  I could feel myself laughing through this.  And, yes it builds character and my first week in NYC story. When I was purchasing all that "crap" I kept saying to myself, now remember you have to take this all the way home. I imagine I'll find myself asking myself this often when shopping for various things whether it home products or food or clothes or whatever. But in this instance, every bit of it was VERY needed. So it was okay.

Okay so in the meantime, I've started a new job. I mentioned that right, the whole entire reason for moving to NYC...the new job?!? All this while, the new job is very sparkly and full of delightfulness. So that is a plus. No scabs there, no potholes. Just delight.  I have high desire to keep this status for this portion of my life because this is something I've not had ever. A sparkly job where people are happy I'm there and using me and my skillset in full. So far, this is on track with my hopes and dreams. All this work I've done over 4 degree's starting to pay off.

Okay now back to the apartment and such.

So the first week comes to and end. And now it's Friday night.

Where did I spend my Friday night? Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, Haydn Creation. And though I practically fell asleep on the subway headed there because I was SO tired...I didn't because I was so excited to hear the music and be at LC and naturally, the music was SO beautiful. Sort of a prayerful and very grateful moment in the story of my first week in NYC as a resident.

Saturday night, an encore to my weekend of classical music...I got to hear a dear NYC friend sing Susanna along with 2 Jayhawks cast members in a Dell'Arte production of Marriage of Figaro.  Also, I got a pedicure. Can't go wrong with that one.

I'm so thankful to my friends who have helped me and will continue to help me make this move. It wasn't something I could have done without their help on this end.  I stayed with them several times during the transition, and they've continued to support me this week in all the newness. Thankfully, I have spent a good amount of time in NYC over the years, so not everything is new to me. But the fact that I actually do have an address at this point is very unreal. I have a place to come home to everyday that is the same, with my things in it, in a beautiful place I'm learning to call home. Lots of adjustment to come in continuation of this thing I'm calling #northernmigrationsituation but none the less, the migration into a life I'm after. For now, learning to be by myself. That's hard. After being part of a team for nearly 14 years, learning to do a lot of things by myself again...that's a transition.
I'm writing this very disjointed sentence structure story and hitting "publish" because I know this is a story I will want to remember (though am likely to never forget...EVER) how things went my first week in NYC.

More to come. Probably a little light hearted, and probably with more decorative photos.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


SO. I now live in New York City and am gainfully employed by Uncommon Charter Schools in Brooklyn. This process is more than a 1 post pony. But here's the most pertinent portion of the information. I also have a new place to hang my hat. And let's be honest. That's the biggest question anyone has had..."OH MY GOODNESS WHERE WILL YOU LIVE..." So let's ease those anxieties first. 

So, I give apartment! Photos from apartment listing.

 Living Room (first view)
Living Room (second view)
 Bedroom (first view)
 Bedroom (second view)
2nd "bedroom" (which will either be an office/ "lady room")

 Bathroom (which is approximately 2 times the size of my Memphis
bathroom and oddly enough the same color tile, a rosey mauve situation)
The kitchen. Which is all new. But needs some love.
I looked at tons of apartments through Craigslist and through StreetEasy and was generally searching my location, first and foremost. Then I was looking at apartment size.  After downsizing from 5000 sq. ft. and an indoor saltwater pool and hot pool...this was obviously a little difficult. But I did find several that I really liked and ultimately ended up with this one because I really liked the broker. She was so good to me and very caring disposition given I was moving here very quickly, and when I did ultimately move here, I was moving with 3 suitcases and an aerobed. So, yes, having a good broker is a very important entity.
In approximately 2 weeks, I will have a truck full of furniture arrive from Memphis, and yes I am looking forward to that. Until, the aerobed and my 2 newly purchased air conditioner units (that's a blog post to come and yes it is terribly "funny") are kicking it NYC style.
School starts on Tuesday and I am so excited to get busy with my new students. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


"You're listening to 91.1 WKNO Memphis, or 90.1 WKNP Jackson. NPR for the Midsouth."

For the past 2 years and 10 months, this has become a fluid sentence within my vocabulary. 
And...a place with which I've been spending a good portion of my time (working) as an on air classical music show host.

I don't believe I've ever showed/shared photos from the ' the time has come. Here are a few pics from my camera roll throughout the last year or so. 

my wkno staff profile head shot.

It's awfully early when I go but it is so much fun and something I've really enjoyed doing!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Keeping it real - Easter Dress Style

Even though I'm now in my "Easter Dress" is still a must.  I don't know that I will ever outgrow this notion and requirement.  This year Easter snuck up on me and the week of Easter I was clicking through the web looking for said garment. All of these photos are ones I took on my phone while texting with my Mother about "which one looked best" I'm keeping it real with my camera photos instead of the actual web pics.  You know...a little blogging character. The majority of the options I selected were from ASOS Curve, but I also liked a few from Talbots, Simbly Bee, Rachel Pally, and MimuMaxi (where approximately 80% of my dresses are from these days.) I ended up ordering a dress from ASOS with 2 day shipping and it did arrive on time. I also ordered a Rachel Pally dress with 2 day shipping and it didn't come until Easter Monday (#fail). 

Dress #1 - ASOS 

Dress #2 - ASOS I have this one in a shorter version and LOVE it

Dress #3 - ASOS I decided this one had way too much going on in the hip region. 
I don't need any extra attention drawn on that area.  Thus this dress didn't make the short list. 

Dress #4 - ASOS this is the dress I ordered and love it. It is long and has a very nice shape about it. 
The back is a little lower than I would like and naturally it has no sleeves. I don't do bare arms in church (period). Has nothing to do with size. I is just something I don't do.  I'm of the cover your knees/arms THE END persuasion. I don't care if you're 15, 32, 50, or 85. Keep it real while you're in church. Long story short, I like this one a lot. I bought a navy elbow length cardigan to wear of the top. It's lovely. 

Dress #5- Simply Bee
This one was $29. And it is pink. 
The end. A good deal to be had. 

Dress #6 - MimuMaxi
I have nearly every dress they sell. I wear them with everything to everything and for everything. 
It is probably the most versitle articles of clothing I've ever owned. That keeps me a loyal customer. 
I can do a day's work in it - looking good - feeling good - and roll into the evening activity per day and still feel appropriately dressed.  Likewise, it suits my personal guidelines for church of keeping it real (if you don't remember that portion look up about 2 photos). I highly recommend this company. 
If you've not done it - check them out! 

I ended up wearing the white Cascade dress (pictured above) for Easter and was quite pleased with it. In addition to being a bit of a goose about various wardrobe things - I also am into grey scale pieces.  It is unlikely to see me wearing a bunch of color - and if so, it is an accessory. I'm good with black and white and all the shades in between.  So that was another part of my conundrum searching for an Easter dress.  I felt like a flower garden in 95% of the options.  Thus, decided to stick with the solids of my preferred grey scale. 

Well - so - I ordered 2 dresses. 1 of them showed up on time and 1 did not.  I ended up wearing one of my Mimu dresses for Easter. I'll wear the other two undoubtedly sometime this spring/summer. In addition to my modesty rule, I also have a rule that if I won't wear it at least 3 times in the upcoming season - I don't buy it.  So alas, here we go for spring and with some new, quite dandy dresses to sport.

Where have you been?

Where in the world have you been young lady? 
Sorry...I've been a bit tied up lately. Per usual. 
Here is one of my sporadic blog posts to show you what I've been up to. 
I've been spending my time on campus - obviously - as I'm a doctoral student
 I'm also working on campus in the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. 
(the building on the left in the picture below)

I've been doing some temp work in the music school at University of Memphis for the past few weeks. It has been nice to return to the habitat of "my kind"...I will say the smell of a music building (at least the ones I've been in) smell like music buildings, rather than science buildings...there's something about that smell that throws me back to Murphy Hall at my undergrad and summers of music camp, etc.  That smell, the same nostalgic smell is what I'm experiencing every day at work. And perhaps it isn't at all that it smells like a "music building" it is just a cognitive reminder of happy things in the past. Regardless of any notion - it is good to be "home" in a place where the sounds (and smells) are familiar.


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