Sunday, April 7, 2019

I thought I was going right home...

Two weeks ago, I woke up with an ear infection.  The post is about the ear infection, but largely about how fast things change and how much that shook me.

I took myself to urgent care first thing Saturday morning, learned I had a pretty standard infection, received a prescription for some heavy duty ear drops, was told to take Tylenol for the pain, and went about my business.  The provider advised that I would not feel better until late Sunday or early Monday, but that it seemed pretty run of the mill.  It would appear that I am anything but run of the mill, and if something whacky can go wrong, it will.

Saturday night was not good.  I was not compliant regarding the medication, and took Excedrin instead of Tylenol.  My jaw became so sore that it hurt to chew - hello scrambled eggs for dinner.  I slept little and figured that Sunday would bring improvement.  On Sunday, Brad went up to Maine to see our girls for the day, but I felt too crappy to go.  I went to church then came home.  As the day wore on, I felt myself deteriorating.  The pain became so much worse, that I was taking 2 Excedrin every 3 hours.  I couldn't chew anything and my ear was completely blocked.  I hesitated to bring myself back to urgent care, in part because the idea of the drive was beyond what I could manage, but also because Brad was not home and I did not want him making the 2 hour drive home worried about me.  When he arrived home, we went right to urgent care.  I figured they'd give me some antibiotics and I'd go home.

Because at this point I was not able to completely close my jaw due to swelling around my ear, the provider was planning to send me to the emergency room of the closest hospital (Winchester Hospital, in Winchester MA).  As she and I were speaking, a wave of dark dizziness washed over me - I told her it was happening then out I went.  I opened my eyes to see a stranger standing over me telling me that I had just had a seizure and asked if I had a history of seizures.

What?  Of course I do not have a history of seizures.  WHAT?  A seizure?  What the BLEEP just happened?  I was immediately alert and able to answer all questions.  I had not lost control of my motor skills or any parts/functions in my body.  The provider advised that she had called 911 as per their protocol and that I would be going to Winchester in first class style.  I told her to go get my husband before any fire engines and the ambulance pulled in.  Poor Brad.  We had literally been texting 5 minutes before and now two people are running to him and bringing him to me.

I went to Winchester for a CT scan to ensure the swelling around my ear had not morphed into something bad.  They were going to admit me, so I sent Brad home.  Our plan was that he would go to work for a while Monday, then come get me when I was discharged.  Not long after he left, the ER doctor came in and advised that he and the ENT doctor determined that my ear wasn't as much of a concern as the seizure was.  They wanted me to go another hospital for an MRI.  I told him that, despite having zero medical training, the passing out was due to too much Excedrin, no sleep and very little to eat.  He advised that, due to his medical training, that sounded good, but it would not have caused that reaction.  He said that the seizure was low on the scale, but they wanted to ensure they covered all bases.  He wouldn't send me if I refused to go, but he thought it seemed like the right thing to do, so I went.

I was on the midnight express to Lahey Hospital (Burlington MA) and there I remained until 1 p.m. on Monday.  I had an MRI (thank you Diazepam!!) and it was clear.  They fed me, medicated me, and helped me feel better.  I went home, and today, two weeks later, am nearly better.  It was a pretty good infection and it's in no hurry to go, but it is going and I am getting better.

Throughout the entire ordeal, I wasn't worried or afraid.  What I was most focused on was how fast it all happened.  One second I'm speaking and looking forward to going home and the next I'm in an ambulance hooked up to an EKG and going in the opposite direction from home.

When I got home Monday, everything was exactly as I'd left it.  The sofa blanket I pushed aside when Brad got home was right there - I always put the blankets away at night when I go to bed, but this was right on the sofa where I had been sitting.  My water glass was on the end table and not in the sink, where I'd have left it.  I thought I was coming right back.  And I left everything as if I was.  How many people who went to an ER that night didn't come home?  How often do we imagine "later" and delude ourselves into thinking there automatically will be a "later".  Just because there always has been doesn't guarantee anything.  Is my life in order enough so that if I have no more "laters" everything makes sense?  The answer is no and Brad and I added that to our immediate list of things to do.

I also spent lots of time thinking of what I take for granted.  Do I appreciate the people around me enough?  I like to think I do.  I cull the weeds and step away from people who are not bringing positive energy into my days and who do nothing to try to be positive.  I remove people from my life who are hurtful and who aren't deserving of my energy.  I do not abide by the "but you HAVE to speak to this person or you HAVE to speak to that person".  No - I don't.  I keep my tribe limited to those people I care for and who care back.  Two way street or nothing.  Appreciating myself is on the list - if I don't care about me and for me, no one else will.  It's my job and the responsibility belongs to no one else.

The experience shook me up and I can't stop thinking about how fast everything can change.  I'll be working on ensuring things are ready for when there is no more "later" for me.  I challenge you to do the same.  It's not easy or pleasant to think about, but that's life.  If you feel like you can't, I say to you - if not you, then who?  Run your life - own your life.  Cherish the "nows" and look forward to whatever "laters" you get.  Fill your life with people who matter to you.  If there's someone you miss, reach out to them and let them know.  If there is something you want to do - do it.  Live the best life you can and enjoy every second of it.

xo



Sunday, January 28, 2018

I hereby resolve_January

Turns out, 2018 is looking like one of those years when I make resolutions, and that's been a great decision so far.

During 2017, I allowed myself to become a little lost.  Family issues, work stress, losses....it was too  much, and although I tried to keep myself moving forward, I began to feel as if I were operating under water with no way to reach the surface.  Enforced time off in late December (use it or lose it) made all the difference.  I took the last three business days of the year and stayed home to regroup.  I needed to purge and head for the surface.

Anyone who has ever completely dumped a closet knows what I mean when I say that it is one of those tasks put off until necessary, but so very helpful and so awesome when completed.  It is also one of those tasks where you can relax your mind and let it roam.  During the first closet purge, my "De 2.18" plan was born.  It will be all about making a number of areas of my life easier to navigate.

I decided to focus on a number of areas with changes to be made in small increments.  I know me and if I'm overwhelmed, I'm out.  Bite-sized works.  

Home
We have lived in our house since late 2009 and it's amazing how many things we have accumulated that we really don't need.  It is time to go room-by-room and clean out, shape up, scale back.  

Work
I love my job and I work with the best team on the planet.  I will keep my work tasks fresh and focused - for me this will mean a new list each week and no more "multi-tasking", which isn't really effective.  Trying to do too many things results in nothing actually being accomplished which piles on the stress.  Over that!

Soul
Since joining a new church last year, my soul has been fed and charged and renewed - my church family is a wonderful blessing to me.  My sweet friend Maryellen gifted me with a journaling Bible this past Christmas and an offer to help me study.  She found an app for us to use as our guide.  Soul food coming up.

Self
I belong to a small gym in my office complex and was very diligent about going before work before I stopped being in any way attentive to it.  I must take care of me if I hope to have success in anything.

January
Home: the purge continues!  Closets completed and kitchen cabinets in process.  Every cleaning requires a 100% empty and careful re-stocking.  Man does this feel good.  No one else may know when they walk past a cabinet how awesome it is inside, but I know and I'm loving being so organized.
Work: The lists are really helping.  I'm focused and far more productive than I had been.  I also feel more relaxed and better able to manage my time.
Soul: Working through 1 Kings and studying the Bible for the first time ever.  This is just awesome for my soul and for my relationship with Maryellen - it's so special to share like this.
Self: My goal was to start back at the gym on the 16th and I did that.  I'm aiming for 3-4 mornings each week, but won't beat myself up if I don't always make it.  What's more important to me is how much I'm enjoying it.  My husband is my greatest cheerleader, and it's fun to send him updates each morning after a workout (and it keeps me accountable).

So far so good this month.  Small changes with great results.  For me, all of the underlying reorganization is helping me to feel more focused and more patient and more productive.  I need order and now that I have begun to restore it, I know I'm going to be able to keep moving forward.

February ideas (to be added onto January items): Celebrate my heart during the AHA's Go Red month; add in 2 1-minute planks every day; dust off my flute and see about finding a teacher - I miss it; spend time with friends and family; and, get back to regular blog posting.  Perhaps a monthly journal of De 2.18 to keep me on task.   Watch this space next month!

If you feel as if you have too many things to do and do not know where to begin - I say to you - break it down and make one change at a time.  You will be amazed at what you can do so long as you remember you are always a work in progress.

xo


Friday, August 4, 2017

Cattoo

I've always thought I'd like to have a tattoo.  I never felt strongly about getting one, largely because I never found the right image.  I also never really searched for the right image, and decided to just leave it all up to fate.

While this is a pretty personal decision, it did matter to me what Brad thought.  He has no desire to have one, but he's been super supportive, which really made it easier for me.

It might have been a year ago or so when I saw an image I knew would be my tattoo.  There was something about it that just spoke to me.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a cat lover.  It would only stand to reason that I would choose a cat image - a "cattoo" if you will.

Between the day I found the image and this week, I never got my cattoo.  I wasn't sure where to go.  I wasn't sure what to do.  Maybe I was afraid of the pain or knowing that I was making a  super long-term decision.  After not doing much of anything, I finally found a shop, made an appointment and went for it.

Finding the right place isn't easy.  I had a couple recommendations that didn't work for me.  One shop that came highly recommended wanted me to come in for a consultation because it was my first art.  What?  I'm 53, not 20 and drunk and doing it on a dare.  Pass.  Let's not make this harder than it needs to be.

I eventually chose The Ink Club in Billerica MA.  I was planning to have work done on my car and looked for shops near the dealership.  I figured, if I have the afternoon off, why not make it productive.  This shop had some great reviews and I knew that if I didn't get a good vibe I could walk out.

My artist, Ryan, is a young guy.  Half my age.  So...I felt like grandma who walked in the wrong door sitting there with him.  But he knows his stuff and he's a very talented artist.  And he made sure my experience was a great one.  The entire ordeal took just under 10 minutes.

Did it hurt?  Yes it did.  Honestly though, it wasn't like any other kind of pain.  I get migraines and the pain from those can render me useless.  This was more like Ryan was pushing a sunburn into my skin with a little machine.  And when he was finished, it no longer hurt.  And I had a cattoo.  My nephew called me a badass for choosing the inside of my wrist as the spot, but I really want to be able to look at it, so hiding it didn't make sense.

It has only been a couple days and so far so good.  I have been very compliant about using the healing cream and following healing instructions.  And I love my cattoo.  It's perfect for me and this just seemed like the right time.  

If any of my local friends take the plunge, call Ryan and tell him I sent you.  I'll even go with you if you're nervous.

If you have a dream or a goal or something to check from your bucket list but you're afraid - I say to you - we're all afraid.  Just do it.  Regret hurts far more than a tattoo.

xo


Saturday, July 15, 2017

If church had black flies....

Last summer while on vacation, we introduced ourselves to the world of fly fishing.  We were in the Rangeley region of Maine, which has an incredibly rich fly fishing history, so we certainly chose the right place to learn.

We visited the Rangeley Region Sport Shop to get outfitted and schedule time with our guide (and shop owner), Brett.  Bright and early on our last day of vacation we headed deep into the woods and learned to fly fish.  What a fantastic experience it was.  From Brett's firm yet gentle tutoring to the peace and beauty of the deep woods - it was awesome.  And, for anyone who thought I'd never do something like this.... here you go.


This year, we went to the shop as soon as we arrived in the area - before we even checked into our cabin - to set our time with Brett.  We both had shiny new fly rods to use and we were looking forward to getting out.  Again, we chose the last day of vacation - what better way to end our time in this wonderful place?

Jill came with us and we had another awesome day.  Weather - location - company ... could not have been better.  And...we all caught (& released) fish!  Just a note - when you head out to enjoy nature, make sure you're with someone who has a deep love and respect for it, because it will make all the difference.  Brett clearly loves nature and the woods and what he's doing.  Each of us caught fish and he carefully showed us how to remove the hooks and release the fish without harming them.  I'm not sure if he's aware of this, but each time he released a fish, he gave it a couple of gentle pats....it is a kind and beautiful and respectful gesture.

While we were fishing, I found myself almost in a trance (disturbed only by the black flies and mosquitos).  I wasn't thinking about anything or speaking to anyone or focused on anything other than my task and was completely present in the miracle of the moment - something that doesn't happen often enough.  The other time it does often happen is when I'm at church.  I'm just there...enjoying the miracle of the moment.

When we finished up, I commented to Brett that it was so peaceful, it felt like church.  His response, "yeah - if church had black flies".  It was the perfect response because, for me, it was a combination of elements - fly fishing, peace, my family, the miracles all around me, black flies and salmon and brook trout - that made it perfect.

The woods and getting close to nature and fly fishing aren't for everyone, but they work for me.  If you think that you can't find peace - I say to you - sure you can, you just have to be willing to look for it.

xo



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Let Them Know

A dear friend of our family, someone I've called "cousin" for 50 years, passed away on June 5th.  The decision to go was his, and the aftermath of sadness, hurt, and pain has been very difficult to deal with.  To help myself come to terms with it, I've been trying to find some kind of positive in an otherwise heartbreaking situation.

On the day of Joe's funeral, I was chatting with Sandy, a long-time close family friend.  She was looking around the room and commented on how many people had come from all areas & phases of his life to pay their respects.  Joe had an impact on everyone he met.  Sandy wondered if he knew what he meant to all of these people and she commented that she would want to know what she meant to people now and not have people wait until she had died to talk about it.  I was 100% in agreement with her.

We go about our days, doing our thing, but do we ever pay attention to what kind of impact we have?  Did we make anyone's day better (or worse)?  Did we try to make anyone's day better (or worse)?  Did we let the people who had an impact on our day know that?  People don't always realize what kind of difference they're making - especially if no one tells them.

It's hard to be human sometimes.  We operate in a relatively civilized society and we can't always say or do everything we wish.  What we can say and do are good things.  Tell people when they've had an impact on you.  Something really small to you might be huge to them.  Let people know you care about them.  You know how sometimes you'll think of someone out of the blue?  Reach out to them if you can.  All those "friends" on Facebook -- say hello -- right on their page.  Send private notes if you've been out of contact for a while and you miss them.  The key is to be sincere.  If you aren't feeling it, don't do it.  People really can tell, so keep focused on keeping it real.  And be open to letting people tell you what you mean to them.  It's sometimes hard to take a compliment, but learn to do it gracefully.

You have the power to change someone's day and, possibly, their life.  Don't think so?  Try it and you'll see.  In giving, you will receive.  Not only will you feel good knowing that you've helped someone to know how important they are, but you'll be opening the door to have that come back to you.

My cousin and I did keep in touch.  We said hello and shared funny cat things, and loved mocking people who don't use their blinkers ("blinkahs").  I try to comfort myself into thinking he knew how loved he was.

If you don't believe your words could have an impact on anyone - I say to you - let them know anyhow.  Because you really can't imagine how big a difference you can make.

xo

Rest well cousin...you were very loved and I will never forget you ♥

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Can I Hear You Now?

Most everyone who knows me in person knows that I've had some hearing loss all of my life.  It was in the mild-to-moderate range most of the time.  I learned to adapt, and became quite the lip reader without even realizing it.

Over time, as with most body parts, my ears got worse and finally, after Brad asked for the 1,000th time, I made an appointment with audiology.  He was sad last summer while we were on vacation and I couldn't hear the loons from our cabin.  And that made me sad.

I'm not sure why I waited.  I certainly knew I was missing out.  There were things I didn't do (or did not enjoy doing) and places I did not go because I knew I'd have trouble hearing.

I kept my appointment and met with an awesome audio-tech named Marlene.  Marlene became the bridge between my old life and my new life.  She performed all kinds of testing, sent me to the audiologist, then brought me back and walked through everything with me.  The kind of loss I have isn't a straight line, profound loss.  It's a crazy graph.  I can hear some things just fine, and other things not at all.  I can't hear much directly behind me.  This kind of loss would limit the types of hearing aid available to me, but could make me eligible for cochlear implants at some point in the next few years.

So we tried out the first aids and it was crazy.  Suddenly, I could hear freaking everything.  EVERYTHING.  We walked out into the lobby of the medical center so she could gauge how I was doing with them.  Who knew people shuffle their feet so much?  Does every door slam so loudly?  Must people laugh at the top of their lungs?  Funny story >>> we were near the front desk and she had me with my back to that area to determine if I could clearly hear the people speaking.  I could then I told her we should leave before we had a HIPAA violation.  She started laughing and asked "Who says that?  You work in insurance?" <<< compliance people can be funny :)

We tested another type, went on another lobby field trip (with no HIPAA violations) and that was it.  I found the ones I liked best.  She measured my ears, had me choose a color, and I ordered them (they are not inexpensive, but there are different price ranges and plans and whatever people might need to get there).

When I picked them up, she advised me to wear them all the time right away and that while it would be overwhelming, I needed to get used to them.  So I followed her instructions and wore them in the car on the 15 minute drive back to work.  My head nearly exploded from the noise, but I kept them in.  Who knew how loud the road was???

The first days were literally exhausting and overwhelming.  I was learning to hear all over again and everything sounded so loud and almost artificial.  Marlene and I met two weeks later to touch base and for her to make a few adjustments so things would sound more "normal".

While it might not have seemed like a big deal to anyone else, it's been huge for me.  I realized how stressed I was at work in some meetings and when I interacted with some people.  Now, I don't even think about it and I'm no longer stressed about whether I'll get everything.  I wear them outside and am amazed at how many varieties of birds we have here.  I wear them in church and can hear everyone who speaks from any spot in the sanctuary.  They really gave me my life back.

I've been pondering what held me back.  Not really vanity - I don't care who can see them.  Cost to some extent, but we managed and I am forever grateful to my husband for helping me.  I don't know.  I do wish I had done this sooner, though.  I missed so much.

If you're contemplating making a life-altering change - I say to you - do it.  It just might make all the difference.

xo


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Feed my Soul

So...I went to a new church today.  And I can't tell you how good it felt (and still feels).


I was raised in one faith and quit a long time ago.  There was not - and still is not - a place at their table for everyone, and that did not work for me.

After a long break without any real religion and my soul desperately wanting to be fed, I joined the Protestant church (UCC) in 2002 and found what I needed.  I was a member until 2013, when it stopped being the right place for me.  I left behind many wonderful and gifted people, but it no longer felt like the place I had originally loved.

I found that, while I missed attending worship, I loved not having to be anywhere on Sunday mornings and that suited me just fine.  I could go outside and feed my soul during a walk in the woods or just sitting with my husband having coffee.  I was good.

In October 2016 we attended a benefit for the North Reading Food Pantry, hosted by Aldersgate United Methodist Church (Taste of North Reading).  We were looking forward to sampling food from local eateries and supporting the food pantry.  The event did not disappoint.  Yummy food, super cool raffle baskets (we won 3!) and some incredibly nice people.  The Aldersgate Pastor, Rachel Fisher, and her husband Sam kept us company during dinner.  They might have sat at any table - I think they knew everyone in the room.  Instead, they ate with two strangers.  I felt like I had known them forever by the time dinner was over.

That night, for the first time in a long time, I missed being part of a church family.  My husband suggested I visit Aldersgate, seeing as how I now knew the Pastor and it's very close to where we live.  I hesitated a little, because I wasn't clear on where the Methodist church stood on inclusion - that is very important to me.  As soon as I visited the church's website, I knew - they have a statement of inclusion posted right on the home page.  I was so happy to see that & it sealed the deal.

In November, I brought my little card business to the Aldersgate holiday fair.  Not only did I sell some cards, I met many nice people.  I was ready to go back to church and was going to this church -- as soon as the holiday season was behind me.

I had resolved to attend on New Year's Day - figuring it would be a great way to kick off the new year.  As fate would have it, Pastor Rachel chose New Year's Eve morning to reach out to see how I was and to see if I was planning a visit.  Good thing she did.  When I told her my plans, she let me know that worship had been moved back to Saturday morning, so that everyone could sleep in on New Year's day.  I laugh thinking of myself sitting in an empty parking lot on New Year's Day had she not written.

This morning I was so looking forward to going.  I was greeted warmly by everyone I passed.  Worship was joyous.  Words to hymns were projected on the wall so we all looked up and sang - no heads buried in hymnals.  A confession here: I almost never sing out loud when other people can hear me.  I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.  I'm usually like Milli Vanilli, - just moving my lips.  That is, until today.  I actually sang out loud.  It didn't seem to matter who might hear - everyone was singing and it was impossible not to join in. 

After worship I met more people and Pastor Rachel presented me with a Welcome gift.  Beneath the bright issue inside the gift bag was an AUMC pencil, a small candle, and a book by Max Lucado (He Did This Just for You).  My gift bag is the right combination for reflective reading and prayer and learning.  Such a thoughtful gesture of welcome. 

I am looking forward to more Sundays and to becoming involved.  More than anything, I'm looking forward to being part of a church family again.

If you ever feel there is something missing from your life - I say to you - go exploring to find it...you never know when your soul will finally feel at home.

xo