Saturday, December 31, 2011

New year greeted by new man

This was a fun story I did in honor of NYE. 

Fred Green poses with a photo of himself before he was able to shed 200 pounds. Photo by MEGAN TILK

One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions — losing weight — can also be one of the more challenging.

For Boonville resident Fred Green, losing weight became a necessity. At just 34 years old, Green weighed 400 pounds.

Aside from the constant fatigue, he suffered from epileptic seizures, often one a day.

“I ate a lot of the wrong stuff,” Green said. “I ate what a lot of people eat: chips, Little Debbies, cookies, candy, soda.”

His lunches often consisted of a hamburger or two, and chips. At home he took comfort in floury pastas and breads.

Green said he knew it was time to change when his cousin, who weighed a bit more, died of a sudden heart attack in September of 2009.

"That was my wake-up call that I needed to make a lifestyle change before I got too old,” Green said. “So I started working out and changed my diet.”

Scrapping the fries for carrots and the burgers for turkey, he also began working out at the local YMCA daily.

“I looked at it as a challenge,” he said. “I used to have a 12-minute mile or more. Now I’m down to an 8-minute mile.”

With a lot of running, a few abdominal and cardiovascular workouts and some healthy eating habits, Green now stands proudly at 200 pounds. Fitting both of his legs into one leg of his old sweatpants, Green could be deemed the local Jared Fogel, Subway Restaurant’s weight loss success story.

His co-workers say he’s better than that.

“Jared just lost weight,” said Unlimited Opportunities Case Manager Misty Vizcarralagos. “Fred’s done that and made his medical condition virtually disappear. He’s amazing.”

Not only did he reach his goal weight and accomplish his goal of driving but he’s also found employment and is taking online college courses, feats he once couldn’t imagine.

Now an administrative assistant to the case management department at Unlimited Opportunites, Green continues to set goals for himself. While continuing his diet and exercise is near the top of his list, Green also hopes to finish school and one day be a case manager himself.

Green’s last reported seizure occurred nearly 10 months ago, about the same time he hit his goal weight.

“It’s quite liberating,” Green said of his experience. “There’s times where I wonder how I even woke up and got along.”

Once deemed medically ineligible to drive due to his epilepsy, Green now owns his own car.

“I’ve known Fred since I worked with him in 2009,” Vizcarralagos said. “He had a lot of potential but was very shy. I think he was maybe afraid of the unknown but I think at one point he just woke up and decided that was enough. He’s made a complete transformation.”

Since Fred has reached his goals, he's chosen to make education and advocacy his 2012 resolution.

“My resolution is to inform and influence others to live healthier and educate them through what I did and what they can do,” he said. “I want to encourage others to lose weight and live healthy.”

Though he admits there were times he struggled, he’s also found ways to cope.

“There are going to be times where you work out all month and only lose three or four pounds,” he said. “That’s normal. Every one plateaus at some point but you can’t judge your progress just by the scale.

“You’re going to get cravings and if you do, don’t deny yourself, because the craving gets stronger and when you eventually give in, I find that you tend to over indulge, so moderation is okay.”

Looking forward to another healthy year, Green said he will continue his routine at the YMCA and share his experiences and motivation with others.

“Every doctor is stunned,” he said. “I like that feeling. Eventually, it got to a point where going to the gym was fun. It’s like recess to a kid for me. It feels great.”

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Christmas fit for the Griswolds

Some of the 11 people we had filling our apartment.
Daily News column for Dec. 30.

A Christmas fit for the Griswolds

Decorations, lights and the sounds of Christmas movies filled our tiny apartment. Each saucer was in its proper place, vegetables were stacked neatly on a tray and even the dog's hair bow was clipped in the exact center of her head. It looked as though I had planned a perfect Christmas.

For the first time in my family's history, we would not be celebrating at Grandma and Grandpa's house, but five hours from their home, in my apartment, which I share with my male counterpart and our two dogs.

Feeling the pressure to live up to Christmases past, I aimed for the best, a Christmas even Clark Griswold would be proud of.

After spraying a quick mist of peppermint scented spray through the apartment, I stood waiting, ready to greet my guests — all 9 of them, and one dog.

It was perfect — until the phone rang.

"What do you mean you're on I-70," I shouted into my iPhone.

Somehow, my family had let the one vehicle without a GPS unit take the lead, and they were more than a bit off course.

I had given specific directions prior to their departure from the hotel. "You go right down … through town, take a left on … , and a right on … " It was that easy.

What my mother heard was "take a right on … and travel west on the interstate."

Once their course was righted, my hopes for a perfect Christmas were restored.

That is until my aunt, uncle and two cousins showed up. They were the first guests to arrive, luckily without an RV. But as they plopped their boxes, bags and coats and dove into the vegetable dip, my hysteria kicked in.

Before I could place their coats on the rack or add their gifts to the Jenga-like stack under the tree, the others arrived.

Gifts overflowed into the hallway, Grandpa tripped over a dog and The Man started drinking before dinner. Things had gone awry in a hurry.

As I scrambled to serve up some soup with what dignity I had left, another dog scared Grandma by jumping into her lap unexpectedly and broke her wine glass.

A few hours later, boxes everywhere, wrapping paper strung from room to room, the smell of burnt soup throughout, my hopes for a perfect Christmas were gone like the bottles of rum and wine that littered the counter.

Instead, we were living a Christmas to remember.

The scramble to purchase a plunger at midnight is something that I will choose to forget.

—Megan Tilk is a reporter who also writes a weekly column for the Boonville Daily News. She can be reached at or through her blog:

Colonel Butter and the war of knives

 Daily News Column for Dec. 23.

Colonel Butter and the war of knives

We had so much aluminum foil covering our kitchen counter, we could have picked up HBO for free. But, instead, we used it to keep our holiday treats from sticking together.

Somewhat of a tradition in my family is homemade Christmas treats involving several pounds of powdered sugar, peanut butter and butter. No, heart problems are not a family tradition.

Now living in Missouri, five hours away from my family in Iowa, the job of assistant chef fell onto my male counterpart.

"Can you hand me a knife?" The Man asked, already covered head-to-toe in melted chocolate.


Knowing that my kitchen contains several types of knives, all of which I know how to use, I needed him to be more specific.

"What kind of knife?" I asked.

"A regular one," he said, still unhelpful.

Already frustrated with my assistant's inability to properly identify kitchen utensils as my mother would so easily be able to do, I continued.

"A butter knife or a steak knife?" I asked, holding up some options.

"The regular one, not a steak knife," he said with an eye roll and a snort.

In my little world, there is no such thing as a regular knife, and his sarcasm and slight display of disgust were just as irritating as his lack of knife knowledge.

"Yeah, that's a butter knife," I said snorting back.

At this point, it was clear, the war was on. Now calling it a "table knife" instead of a "regular knife," The Man was taking a new tactic.

Holding my ground, I continued to try and prove myself right — which, of course, I was.

"I've called this a butter knife my entire life, and I've used it to butter your toast and crescent rolls," I argued. "And I've never, in the past five years, heard you call it a table knife."


Realizing neither of us would back down, it was time to call in reinforcements. After a quick flick of the laptop lid and some auto focusing by way of webcam, my mother was now there to help, even though she remained in Iowa.

Holding the knife just a foot from the computer screen, I took another shot at the stubborn Southerner.

"Mom, what do you call this?" I asked already knowing the answer.

"A knife," she replied. Oh. Dear. God.

"Mom, what kind of knife?" I pried.

Before the words were even out of her mouth, the victory dance had already commenced in our living room. Two against one. It was, in fact, a butter knife, and so it was settled.

Not so fast.

The Man has a mom, too. Another Southerner. And so the war continued.

When her answer of "table knife" came from the depths of the worldwide Web, it was clear this battle wouldn't be easy.

We decided to leave it up to our co-workers, only to be further irritated with answers of "dinner knife" and "just a plain knife."

Call it a truce, if you will, but this girl is an Iowan, and we butter our bread with butter knives.

*Take the Daily News' online poll and let Megan know what you call such a knife.*

Friday, December 16, 2011

A rock, a stick and a stone

 BDN Column for 12-16-11

I couldn't have made his Christmas shopping experience any easier.

As if the emails upon emails of high resolution photographs, website links and price comparisons weren't enough of a hint, I had even verified the payment and delivery methods of several locations, also included in the emails.

So when I got the, "besides jewelry, what do you want for Christmas," text message, I was a little peeved to say the least.

It was in fact, 11 days until the big, happy holiday and it was obvious that after weeks of hints and "help," that The Man hadn't even started shopping — or contemplated the idea of shopping. It was also apparent that he didn't find my hints very helpful. Bummer.

Not one to give up, I found another way to convey my wish for something round and shiny.

"A rock on a stick," I replied. After all, it wasn't jewelry but still painted a pretty good picture of what I was after — so long as the stick is round and the rock shiny. I'm not very subtle.

Not willing to play into my game he threatened me with no gifts at all.

Knowing that I would most likely not receive a ring coupled with the number of emails containing earring and necklace options in his email, I helped him out a bit.

"How about a stone? To replace the one you broke," I texted.

While I was trying to remain humorous and light, the fact still remained that my kitchen was short one rectangular baking stone, even though  I can't blame the poor guy for trying.

It was one of those rare occurrences, women like me have to take advantage of. The kind that only happen during a solar eclipse, NASA launch or when you're deathly ill.

A few days back, The Man decided to cook supper for me.

Filling my plate with yummy pasta, I was about to grab a few slices of garlic bread fresh out of the oven, when pop! My baking stone and what was left of the garlic bread went sailing through the kitchen.

With so little counter space in our new apartment, The Man had done what I find myself doing so often, using the stove for storage. Except this particular time, he forgot to turn the pasta burner off before placing the stone on the stove to cool.

And that was the last of my chances for a stone, a rock or a stick.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Way It Is: Dreams of underwear heaven shattered

BDN Column for 12-8

"How would you even wear something like that," The Man asked, scratching his head.
While his question was valid, coming from the opposite sex, it didn't detour his attention, which was solely focused on The Angels on our TV screen.

It was time for the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and I had been excited for weeks.

Though there really is no answer for his question — because all women know that only The Angels can wear the complete ensembles — us average types can and do actually wear the basics.

So there I sat, just as enthralled as The Man, in my oversized sweats and hoodie with my bowl of ice cream.

Hey, just because The Angels don't eat, it doesn't mean I can't enjoy fine food when I see it.

"You know, I used to think I could be a Victoria's Secret model," I said to The Man between bites.

His raised eyebrow told me I could continue.

"But then I met ice cream, Diet Coke and a bit of a desk job."

The ice cream dripping from my nose made it clear that I thought I was funny. The Man looked on in disgust — or maybe embarrassment — either way, I wasn't getting any closer to being a model or funny.

I continued watching, and making my Christmas wish list for the Secret's Santa, but I couldn't help but wonder what my life would be like had my childhood dreams of the runway came true.

Not only would my dad have died of a heart attack after seeing his only daughter in undies with wings, but my poor dogs would have probably starved nearly to death right alongside me. Who else would give them their daily helping of table scraps if I were living off nothing but egg powder and water?

Being on stage with my arms and legs showing wasn't an issue. I grew up taking dance lessons. There was probably a time or two I flaunted a favorite dance costume up and down the hallway of our house.

So how's the list look so far? Eating nothing? Debatable. Modeling sparkly costumes? Check. Next stop? Those shoes!

Being a farm kid, the only thing I used a high heel for was to drive thumb tacks into my bedroom walls to hold up posters and photos. Not sure I even realized you could wear them and actually walk around.

The Man has already accused me of having "baby giraffe syndrome" the few times I've braved one or two inch heels. I'd look like a monkey on stilts if I had to wear those cute but extremely high Angel stilettos.

With two of the three major Victoria's Secret model qualifications a bust, I finished off my ice cream and popped in a movie.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Black Friday's Missouri Man Snake

BDN Column for 12-1-11

The fog was slowly lifting. The soft glow of our newly installed Christmas tree twinkled through the room. Thanksgiving was in full swing and while I was still trying to regroup from the food coma I had so happily put myself under, someone else in my house was fully awake and beginning to bounce off the walls.

It was clear that everyone's annual afternoon nap was nearing an end and we began to wonder if my male counterpart had consumed a bit too much of this year's "special" frozen fruit drink.

"Walmart's sale starts at 10 p.m." The Man announced with that sense of excitement generally reserved for 5-year-olds on Christmas day. It was only 5 p.m. The dog show was over, the leftovers were secured in the fridge and I had been awakened from my nap. Rude.

"Are you coming? I'm going to get some awesome blue rays," he said, still giddy. Quickly shattering the poor kids hopes and dreams for his first Black Friday experience in a big city, I announced that I was going back to sleep.

"Wake me up when it's time to leave," I said already snuggled up on the couch with our Shih Tzu. With nothing better to do for the next five hours, The Man attempted to nap himself. By my calculations — granted I was nodding in and out of ham induced semi-conscienceness — he lasted maybe 30 minutes before bouncing again.

The next thing I knew, I was being shoved and it was 9:15 p.m.

His excitement truly mounting, The Man made a final glance over our DVD collection before dragging my drowsy butt out the door. I wasn't going to admit my excitement. We'd done the whole Black Friday thing before, but on a much smaller scale and honestly, I was over it. Kohls, Target, Best Buy or even a mall weren't available to us in years past, but this year they were all within just a few short miles.

As we rounded the corner to the nearest Walmart, whatever little bit of excitement I had and all 500 ounces of his flew right out of our sunroof.

"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas any more," was the only smartalic thing I could come up with. Cars, trucks, SUVs and even an RV filled every parking spot, cart stall and curb. It was apparent that we certainly wouldn't be doing our holiday shopping from the comforts of our old, small-town store again this year.

It would be a battle to the death.

Making a b-line through the front doors, past the jolly greeter and nearly knocking over the tweens with headphones, he drug me straight to the DVD crates. It was as if he had instinctual GPS. Crammed in between aisles of peanut butter and beer were the plastic wrapped displays of $9 movies and The Man was already drooling.

With dejavu of that time I was accidentally knocked away from the safety of Mom's hand at the state fair as I child, I jumped to the belt loop method. But it was no use.

Even though I was no longer a child, there were just too many people and The Man had only one thing on his mind — and it wasn't the safety of his fare lady.

My Man had morphed into some type of snake and after scooping up a shopping basket, he slithered between the traffic jam of carts I'm certain was left by soccer moms as a diversion and made his way through the sea of confused dads to the front of the display. Seeking safety, I parked myself against a frozen food cooler and pretended to send text messages while secretly photographing the moves of the native Missouri Man Snake.

Nearly 30 minutes later, The Man immerged from the depths.

"What happened to your basket," I asked seeing him cradling a large assortment of movies. "It got in the way, so I ditched it. Check out the cool movies I got," he doted. Amateur.

Luckily, he had slithered fast enough to finish his shopping with time to spare before I showed him how the pros do it. And we moved on — to our place as customers number 132 and 133 in the line outside of Kohls.