Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

Welcome to Sharondipitous Moments

A few years back I started this blog.  I wanted to write humorous commentary.  The title, Sharondipitous Moments, was a play on my name and my belief in the brilliance of serendipity.  Then on January 19, 2016, I had a heart attack.  As heart attacks go, mine wasn’t particularly severe.  When I was able, I joined other patients in cardiac rehab and with my doctor’s advice started a weight loss program.  Then almost 1 year to the date after the attack, I experienced pressure in my jaw while exercising.  My cardiologist said,  “No more exercising until you’ve had another cardiac cath.”  I avoided a second attack, but my LAD (aka the “widow maker”) was 95% blocked.  I was shocked, discouraged and depressed.

Who would have thought something so horrible could be so serendipitous?  I had started attending WomenHeart meetings at Baptist Health Systems, Miami Cardio and Vascular Institute.  A member asked me if I would be interested in attending a WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota.  I did and graduated from the symposium with 57 other dynamic, fantastic women as a WomenHeart Champion and Community Educator.

I love writing.  I particularly enjoy story-telling and humor.  That will continue to be part of this blog.  Now I have an opportunity to share some knowledge I’ve gained as a cardiac survivor.  So in addition, you’ll also see some information on Health & Wellness, and this wonderful organization, WomenHeart, of which I am a part.  Enjoy!

 

ON BEING ENTOMBED.

ON BEING ENTOMBED.

Living in isolation, I find myself with time on my hands.  There are all kinds of projects — like clearing my closets, the pantry, my office.  While important, these tasks are what some may call “non-starters.”  I settled on going through my office credenza, which is filled with old photographs.

Among the pictures were photos of a holiday taken long-ago in Capri, the idyllic island off the southern coast of Italy.  As my mind traveled back in time, I recalled an incident that gave a whole new meaning to the term “isolation.”

I was sitting in the lounge of the hotel with my parents when I realized I’d left something in my room.  I rushed off to retrieve it.  Upon entering the elevator, I pushed the floor number and headed up.  Suddenly there was a jolt, and the elevator stopped.

I pushed the floor number again.  Nothing.  Once again.  Nothing.  I pushed every floor number.  Nothing.  There was a little button with a bell on it.  I pushed it.  In the distance, I heard ringing, then NOTHING.   Anxiety was building. I pushed the bell button again, determined to keep it ringing until I made contact with a human being.

From afar,  I heard, “Pronto, pronto, Qual e il problema?”

Oh hell, my Italian is not all that good, and, with panic just around the corner, it’s not good at all.  “Help!”

In very broken English (he was on the verge of hysteria, and his English was about as good as my Italian), he asked, “Where are you?”

Where did he think I was? “I’m in the elevator.”

“Si signorina, a che piano?”

“What?”

“On what floor?”

“I don’t know.  The elevator just stopped.”

“I need for you to open the door.”

There was more than one set of doors in the elevator.  I went to one and pressed my hands against the door and attempted to drag it to an open position.  This is not an easy thing to do when the lift isn’t functioning.  Finally, the door was open.  I faced a wall.

“What do you see?”

“A brick wall.”

“I need for you to open the other door.”

Again, drag and pull– another brick wall.

“What do you see?”

“Oh my God, I’m entombed!”

“Che cosa?

“It’s another wall!”

“Solo un momento.”  And then there was “the sound of silence.

I recalled a movie where an elevator crashed.  Someone remarked, if the people hadn’t been standing, they might have survived, but their spinal columns were shattered when the elevator jolted to the bottom of the shaft.

“Signorina? I am going to pull you up.”

With that, using what I guess was some kind of pulley system, he tugged, then tugged again.  After each tug, the lift would move upward then settle down with a jarring bump.   As I fell to the floor in an effort to save my spinal column, I prayed.  “Please, God, I don’t want to die in an elevator crash.”

Finally, I saw a bit of light, then more and then the head of the man pulling me up.  I have no idea what he thought when he saw me lying on the floor.  Perhaps he believed I fainted.  A few more pulls and I was free!

Yes, there are different types of isolation — some dramatic, others seemingly never-ending.  We all hope this time of seclusion draws to a close, sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

Cooking 101

Cooking 101

In these days of pandemic and self-isolation, I received an email from a friend, suggesting we add a twist to an old idea — the recipe exchange.  It’s called the #QuarantineCooking recipe exchange.  What fun!

The most saved shows on my DVR are cooking shows.  I love to cook, and for a “home cook,”  I’m not so bad.  However, looking back on my initial kitchen encounters, I wasn’t adept when it came to food preparation.

One of my first attempts involved surprising my parents – and I must admit, they were surprised.  I came up with a plan to fix “breakfast in bed” for mom and dad.  The menu wasn’t complicated.  It consisted of toast with jam, coffee, and juice.  I was old enough to manage the toaster, and pouring juice was no particular problem.  It was the coffee that got me!  I didn’t know how to work the electric coffee pot.  How many grounds should I put in?  How much water?  Does it really have to heat up?  My parents were grateful for the attempt, but it was their first taste of chewable coffee.

My second foray into cooking involved baking.  Baking requires precision.  One must have exact measurements, cooking times, and temperatures.  I loved Toll House cookies, and the instructions were on the side of the package of chocolate chips.  The recipe called for 1 tsp baking soda.  I looked in the cabinet with mom’s pantry items and found baking powder.  I couldn’t find baking soda, but I’d seen it before.  It was a white powdery substance.  I opened the Baking Powder.  It was white and a powder (hence the name).  I figured they must be the same.  Of course, I was wrong.

It’s also helpful to understand the terms used in recipes.  Why do they call it “creaming” the butter?  How much cream should you add?

But I digress.  What was I going to use for #QuarantineCooking?   When you’re isolating and limiting trips to the grocery store, you hopefully have a pantry filled with staples and spices.  I generally have some meats or fish in the freezer.

A couple of weeks ago, on the Food Network show, “The Kitchen,” the cast did a segment on Quarantine Cooking.  Jeff Mauro presented his recipe for Crispy Skin  Salmon Provencal with a Red Cabbage Salad.  https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jeff-mauro/crispy-skin-salmon-provencal-with-charred-red-cabbage-salad-8553405

It looked outstanding.  The salmon part of the recipe had a total of six ingredients:  salmon, olive oil, butter, herbes de Provence, Dijon Mustard, and lemon.  I had everything for the salmon.  I didn’t have cabbage in the house, but I did have brussels sprouts (aren’t they like little cabbages?).

Check out Jeff’s recipe.  If you aren’t interested in the crispy skin, remove it.  You don’t have herbes de Provence.  Try using dried thyme or Italian seasoning — you can rename it, Salmon Italiano.  My sister-in-law doesn’t like mustard.  If I would fix it for her, I’d simply swap mayonnaise for mustard.

Brussels Sprouts do very well when roasted.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the woody ends of the sprouts, and tear off any dried outer leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil, making sure the oil is on all of the sprouts.  Place on a sheet tray (cover the bottom with foil for easier cleanup), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning them once about halfway through.

So there you have it with suggestions for “swaps” if required.  Follow Jeff’s recipe for the salmon and mine for the side dish.  Voila — you have dinner.  If you’re doing the Provencal version, “Bon appetit,” or the Italiano version, “Buon appetito.”  Whatever.  ENJOY!

 

 

 

GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

As I began this year, I set in motion a monthly challenge.  In January, my plan was to commit to daily meditation.  Dan Harris insisted that doing this would make me 10% happier.  I don’t know that I can quantify my degree of happiness. However, I had no idea how much I would benefit from not only beginning the practice but continuing it.

The second thing I started in January was re-reading, “Simple Abundance.”  It is a daily reading and is a delightful accompaniment to meditation.  A significant key to Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book is to consciously be thankful for what you have in your life.  She even recommends keeping a “Gratitude Journal.”

Three months later, I  sit in isolation in my office amid a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 20,000 Americans and infected more than 525,000.  Every state of the union has reported cases.  On March 22, my brother passed away suddenly (not from Covid-19), and later that day, in one of my less graceful movements, I tripped over Ted (the cat) and went flying face-first into a wall.  Fortunately, I was only hospitalized for a couple of days.  I still have a hematoma over my right eye, although the right side of my face and my neck are no longer one large bruise.

“So,” you ask, “you’ve decided to write about gratitude?”

Earlier this week, I was listening to GMA in the morning, and Robin Roberts repeated something her mother used to say, “You can’t put a limit on gratitude.”  Now admittedly, my last 30 days have not been the most joyful, and I’m not even remotely Pollyannaish.  However, thanks to my Gratitude Journal, I have found at least 5 things per day for which I can be grateful.  On days when the stars seem to be out of alignment, I can still be grateful for my health, my home, my pets (even when they trip me), my family, and friends.  Looking at the news, I see people lining up for miles to get food; people hospitalized unable to have visitors to cheer them (talk about isolation!).

So, in answer to your question, “Yes, I choose to write about gratitude.”  I believe gratitude is a choice we can all embrace — even when nothing seems to be going well.   John-Baptiste Massieu, a bishop during the French Revolution, and also a deaf educator, suggested that “Gratitude is the Memory of the Heart.”  It’s Easter and Passover — what better time to fill your heart with gratitude?

THE GOLDEN BOY

THE GOLDEN BOY

What follows is a slightly edited post from June 23, 2018.  It was my brother’s birthday. On Sunday, March 22, Harlley Ellsworth McKean passed peacefully.

When he was young, he would tag after his big brother to a vacant field, where the neighborhood boys played softball. A towhead, he always seemed to end up playing outfield. Inevitably a long drive would head to the outer reaches of the park, and he would race after it. That is until he suddenly vanished.

Face it! It wasn’t the best ballpark in the world, and the “outfield” was a composite of high grass and deep holes. The last anyone would see of the boy as he raced after the fly ball, arms outstretched, was his blond hair literally disappearing from view. It was no accident; he played outfield. Yes, it’s tough being the younger sibling.

Years later, as Ted told this tale of his brother’s softball prowess, he bestowed upon him the moniker, “Golden Boy.” It stuck.

Good things happen to those who wait. As Har was about to enter his teens, along came a younger sister, and the Golden Boy began to nurture a wicked side he had never displayed before. Now, he was the oldest, and teasing his younger sister was a right of passage. While at the movies watching “The Wizard of Oz, he pestered her, pretending he was a winged monkey ready to fly her away. The theater was filled with a child’s voice yelling, “Stop it, Harlley!”

On another occasion, he enlisted a pal to pull dollars off our elm tree. The two insisted that it was a “money tree.”  At first, I didn’t believe it, stating, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  But the guys persisted,  “this particular tree is magic.”  They even let me find $1.00.  Do you have any idea how disappointing it was to find out that was not true? I’m still suffering.

Our lives were woven together loosely as many years were spent apart. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Har was at Cornell College, followed by attending graduate school at Purdue University. I was in high school, then college, and later working in downtown Chicago.

However, our lives intersected again in 1968. We both moved to California, he was up in Berkeley, and I was down in Palo Alto. While in the Bay Area, we often visited. Sometimes we were sailing in San Francisco Bay, on other occasions we enjoyed the pool at my apartment, and of course, there were visits to the wine country. We relished the freer culture that was northern California. Even after he moved back to Purdue, we managed to meet up for the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.

Over the years, we’ve lived both near and far apart, having many adventures, and we’ve always remained close. It’s been a long road from childhood to today. There have been joyful times, and as life would have it, times of sorrow as well. Through it all, we’ve been each other’s support and may not have physically carried one another, but we did indeed lift one another emotionally.

With our long journey in mind, I’m reminded of Bob Russell’s lyrics.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

REST IN PEACE BRO’

WHAT’S YOUR VISION?

WHAT’S YOUR VISION?

At the last meeting of our WomenHeart Group, we gathered stacks of old magazines, pictures, postcards, quotations, scissors, glue, and used our imaginations to create individual Vision Boards.  Andee and Annie brought some 9 x 12 boards that, when finished, could be hung on the wall.  We had an hour and a half to create a vision of our lives.

Better than a resolution, a Vision Board is a reminder of what’s essential in your life.  The idea came to us via our HeartSister Caridad.  In addition to heart disease, Cari had several other serious health issues. She told us about her Vision Board. It had words of encouragement, pictures of loved ones, and a photograph of the beach – a place Cari associated with peace and serenity. The first thing every morning, she would look at it.  It would lighten her load and help her start her day with feelings of thankfulness.

In January 2017, we had our first VB party.  At the end of a delightful evening,  we shared our completed projects.  Here is Cari with her Vision Board along with Annie de Velasco, Andee Weiner, and me.  What a lovely moment.

This year, the inspiration for my Vision Board started with two books.  Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, is a book I read years ago and decided to revisit.  Each day there is a passage to read, and each month she suggests small activities to enrich the reader’s life, called “Joyful Simplicities.”  The second book by Jennifer Ashton, M.D, was published recently and titled, “The Self-Care Solution.”  Dr. Ashton set in motion personal monthly challenges, which would help improve her life.

Why these books?  For years I’ve been reading “how-to” books.  And, yes, I often learned how to do something better.  Alternatively, these books dived into how to better care for me, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

My vision board (shown below) is hanging in my office, which is currently filled with clutter.  Is it any wonder it has the words “less clutter” prominently displayed?  Looking like a title at the top of a page, I’m reminded to “Enjoy Life.  It has an expiration date.”  My blog is noted, as are the two books starting me on my journey, and my self-care monthly challenges.  In my first month, I delved into meditation.  That was so satisfying, I’m continuing it daily.

One thing that’s difficult to read in this picture, but really spoke to me are the words, “Instead of focusing on a to-do list, start a to be list.  Things I want to be:  Happy, Calm, Loving, Healthy, Awesome.”  As an A-Type personality,  I’m thinking not being driven by my to-do list is going to take some extra work.

So there is my vision for 2020.  It is said, visualization is a powerful mind exercise.  I’ll have to get back to you next year and let you know how strong my vision is.

In the meantime, here are some suggestions for your Vision Board.  Focus more on how you want to feel — not merely on things you want.  Use pictures, words, photographs, even trinkets.  There aren’t any rules.  Come back next year and let me know how you did.