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 serendipitous?  I had started attending WomenHeart meetings at Baptist Health Systems, Miami Cardiovascular 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!

 

Advertisements
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

Word came down from the Oval.  We shall no longer be PC when it comes to holiday greetings. However, when your family covers many different religions, and you send out a generic letter, it’s much easier to wish everyone a Happy Holiday.

How has your year been?  All in all, mine has been pretty good.  No cardiac events (I’m knocking on wood as I write this — the year isn’t over yet).

PAWS AND MEDITATION

The paws are getting older.  Gatsby and Scarlett are somewhere around 100 years old.  Gatsby is no longer a Black and White Tuxedo Cat.  He’s more charcoal grey and white.  Scarlett, who has been known to catch a bird in flight has become a couch potato.  Daisy is only in her 90’s — imagine being 90-something!  I’m relatively close, but can’t begin to picture myself at that age.

The remaining paws belong to Teddy and Gabrielle – the youngsters.  Incidentally, I wrote about Teddy’s resemblance to a Koala (see: A Rose by Any Other Name at SharondipitousMoments.com).  Actually, I discovered he’s at least part Maine Coon, a breed known for its VERY LARGE size.  Heaven only knows how he found his way to Florida.

I’ve been trying to practice meditation every day.  It seems that Ted found the activity particularly soothing.  As I walk through the house every day, I see him in deep meditation.

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

My brother, Harlley and his wife Betsy decided to migrate to California.  Years ago, he and I moved to the Bay Area but then (nomads that we are) traveled around the country.  The two set out from sunny Florida to sunny California.  Yes, that IS redundant — why not snowy New York or Windy and Snowy Chicago, or freezing Minnesota?

They settled into beautiful Calabasas – just across the freeway from Agoura Hills, where Kerry and Todd (their kids) live.  Then November arrived on the tail of Santa Ana winds.  Kerry and Todd vacated their home going to my brother’s place.  A few hours later there was pounding on the door followed by shouts of, “Evacuate!”   As mentioned before, my brother has some nomadic tendencies — Betsy, on the other hand, does not.  I’m happy to say everyone survived — maybe a little the worse for wear.  Better yet, their houses remain standing.  I’m knocking on wood again — the rains have commenced.

WHILE BACK IN FLORIDA

The Florida Panhandle barely survived Hurricane Michael.  Miami was much luckier, no major storm here.  I did get hurricane impact windows.  Three smaller windows and my utility room door are yet to be installed.  I hated the feeling of entombment when I used my old shutters, but don’t know that I want to see trees falling and all kinds of debris flying through the air. But, au contraire, if we have another hurricane in our area, I’ll be able to see the Wicked Witch fly by on her broomstick!

First, it was “chads,” now it’s counting ballots, losing ballots, finding ballots.  I recognize there are a large number of retirees in Florida, but it isn’t us!.  It’s the people who manage elections, who can’t seem to get it right.  We finally found out who our elected officials were more than a week after voting closed.  Maybe in 2 years, we can get it right.

Hope to hear from all my friends soon.  Last year I announced, I wouldn’t be sending my holiday letter out anymore, but would post it on my website.  I received complaints.  Therefore, I am sending some letters out with information on how to subscribe to my blog. This will be the last year of a post office mailing.

Until next year, my hope is you all have a great holiday and a new year filled with good health, happiness, and joy.

  Love from,

Gatsby, Scarlett, Daisy, Teddy, Gabrielle

and, of course, Me

 

 

 

 

Vintage

Vintage

My Mac’s speed has slowed, so I made a call to Apple Support.  I believe most of the techs are considerably younger than I, and therefore expect their frame of reference might be different from mine.  After accessing my computer, the technician looked at various potential problems, made some changes, rebooted my computer in safe mode, and then back again in regular mode.  As we were discussing the issue, the young lady said, “Of course, yours is a vintage Mac.”

I have a friend who has (what he calls) a vintage car.  It “came off the line” in 1960.  Many car enthusiasts would insist it is not old enough to be vintage since it’s post-1930.  I have some beautiful old jewelry, but it’s not 100 years old and cannot be defined as vintage.  I, too, have made it to my “golden years,” and I’m definitely not vintage!

How on earth did my 6-year-old Mac become vintage?  Should I ship it off to the Smithsonian?

In this wonderful age of technology, things age extremely fast.  Computer chips appear to age faster than anything.  The computer chip in my dryer died at the age of 3, and the chip in my electric range had to be replaced before it made it to one year.

Although advances in medicine have expanded human life expectancy,  this does not hold true for computers.  Fortunately, the techie was able to make my Mac function better.  It’s slower than it was a few years ago, but what the heck, so am I.

Remembering Cari

Remembering Cari

I was attending my first WomenHeart meeting two years ago.  The meeting was starting, and I quickly found a seat, sitting next to Caridad (Cari).  There were maybe 25 – 30 women present and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Sometimes, the meetings have speakers or activities, but this evening was dedicated to sharing.  I was to learn that taking the time to listen and learn from other heart patients, is an invaluable tool for all.  As it came time for Cari to share, she started to tear up.  In addition to heart disease, Cari had several other serious health issues.  Having an opportunity to express her problems was difficult, yet she did so with profound dignity.

She told us about her Vision Board. It had words of encouragement, pictures of loved ones, and a photograph of the beach – a place she 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.  At the end of the meeting, I spoke with her and our group leader, Annie, about having a Vision Board party for our WomanHeart group.

In January 2017, we had our VB party.  What a great time.  After working on our boards,  we shared our completed projects with everyone.  Here is Cari with her Vision Board along with Annie de Velasco, Andee Weiner and me.  What a happy moment.

As I look at Cari’s Vision Board, I see pictures of her family and of course her beautiful beach.  Most prominently we find the word, GRATITUDE, something integral to her well-being.

Cari passed away early last week.  In the song, Seasons of Love, from the musical, Rent, we are asked, “How do you measure the life of a woman or man?”  The answer is, “Measure your life in love.”  Cari exuded love.  I am so grateful I had the opportunity to know her, if only for a brief time.

THE GOLDEN BOY

THE GOLDEN BOY

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 young 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 was tough being the younger brother.

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 he was about to enter his teens, along came a younger sister and the Golden Boy began to nurture a side to his personality he had never displayed before. Now, he was the oldest and teasing his younger sister was his 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!” He enlisted a pal to pull dollars off our “money growing” elm tree. 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 1950’s and early 1960’s, he was at Cornell, followed by graduate school at Purdue. 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 there, we visited often. Sometimes we went 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.

We’ve had many adventures over the years – living both near and far apart — but we’ve always remained close. It’s been a long road from childhood to today. There have been wonderful happy times, and as life would have it, there were 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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRO’

The Quality of Bending Easily Without Breaking!

The Quality of Bending Easily Without Breaking!

A quote by Maynard Webb caught my eye some time ago.  He stated, “Flexibility has become a modern-day value.  But flexibility comes with a cost.”  

It brought me back to a time when a friend and I attended yoga classes.  Rosalie and I were thirty-something, and our instructor was perhaps in her 60’s.  She was amazing!  Just watching the spring in her step, her agility and “stretchiness.” Is that a word?  Whatever!  She had stretchiness!  Watching her was inspiring.  

While I’m not an expert on kinesiology, it’s known that as we age our joints stiffen, and that lovely suppleness of youth is but a memory.  I was experiencing this.

I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s unlikely that I will go to an ashram as she wrote about in her book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’  But thinking again of my former instructor, it occurred to me going to a yoga class was an excellent idea.  I googled Yoga and found a Hatha Yoga school not too far from my house.  And surprise, a beginners’ class was scheduled to start in one week!

On day one, I found myself with some ladies ranging in age from twenty to perhaps 60 or 70.  We were told some movements tend to be effortless, while others are arduous.  We were assured that if we’d stick with it, we would see improvement.

The first thing we were asked to do was sit cross-legged, while maintaining good posture, with knees bent and opened wide like a book. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  I watched the others in the class.  Their knees were not only opened wide but almost touching the floor.  Mine were up to my ears.  It was suggested that I sit on some towels, elevating my bum, so my knees appeared to be closer to the floor.  Somehow that seemed like cheating, but at least my “pose” looked more similar to everyone else’s.  Of course, I appeared to be a foot taller than everyone else in the room as well.

We proceeded with several poses.  Funny, I had no recollection of pain during my earlier classes.  Our instructor explained that most of us had spent many years sitting, standing and walking incorrectly.  “As a result, some of these poses may be difficult. But don’t worry, just stick with it.”  Good grief!  I had so many years of lousy sitting, standing and walking to make up for!

And the poses continued:  the mountain, the chair, the triangle, downward facing dog — some more difficult than others.  I don’t recall perspiration dripping down my face in past classes, but I was beginning to feel it now. Thinking back on my earlier experience, we glided almost ballet-like from one position to another.  There was nothing rhythmic in my movements now.   Then we were on the floor again —  I in an un-lotus like pose.  I panicked thinking, “Oh my God, my hips are locking, where is the exit?” 

Perhaps, the instructor saw the look of terror on my face, because she asked us to rise again and that’s when it happened.  When you’re as stiff as I was, getting up can be a challenge.  I didn’t fall, because I was able to catch myself by jamming the second toe of my right foot into the floor.  There was PAIN!  Just as I was about to let out a gasping cry, I saw the sign:

“NO WHINING PLEASE”

“What?  No whining, please?  This place must be run by sadists!

I looked around for an escape.

Our instructor, however, was on to another pose — the ‘Warrior Pose.’  She tried to assist this now wounded warrior by moving my left foot, putting more pressure on the toe on my right foot.  She didn’t understand that I couldn’t do that and breathe at the same time.

The hour was almost over.  The instructor said,“It’s time for the ‘Corpse Pose.’”  CORPSE POSE?  They actually have a designated pose for a dead person?  I figured they were going to put me out of my misery.   Lying on my back, my toe throbbing, I awaited my fate.  Fortunately, the Corpse Pose is a time for meditation.  I would have enjoyed it but was in so much pain, I couldn’t think of anything else.  Then I heard a soft voice say, “Namaste.”  The class had ended.

I hoped my ‘corpse toe’ could be revived.  Too bad there was no video of me leaving the studio.  Limping and appearing to be wearing some kind of body armor, I was the personification of rigidity.

Good old Maynard Webb.  He was right.  Achieving flexibility does come with a cost.  Of course, he was talking about working in the age of the internet.  For me, well it came with a broken toe.  

For my next act, I think I’ll take up Tai Chi.  

Editor’s Note:  You may recall this story from back in 2014.  Last Wednesday, I was asked to fill in as a speaker at Toastmasters.   So reworked the original article to a speech format.  Hope you enjoyed this version.

Aside

Au Revoir Clouseau

Five years ago, my neighbor came over, asking if I could help her.  She had a kitten that had literally been blown under her vehicle by a passing car.  She didn’t know what to feed him, had no litter, and no place to leave him when she went to work.  I explained I was unable to take him, and as you might guess that lasted all of about 2 minutes.  There he was — all one pound of him and that bewitching little face.

Compared to the other cats in the family he was small, but in his mind, he was also mighty.  His first toy was a turtle.  He amused himself swatting it a couple of times, then picked it up in his mouth and shook it emitting a deep growl.  He was surprised by my laughter, but the sight of him waving a toy turtle that was as big as his head while growling was hysterical.

His antics reminded me of the games played by Kato and Clouseau in the “Pink Panther,” hence his name.  In my house there were many Katos, none of whom wished to play the game.  In spite of their feelings, he would race across the room, jump on furniture, then fly through the air front paws outstretched landing on his prey.  He loved it.

The Vulture Pose

Monsieur Clouseau’s language preference was French.  He did not adhere to the Henry Higgins opinion, that “the French don’t care what you say, as long as you pronounce it correctly.”  Perhaps that is because his English pronunciation was so horrible (he literally murdered the word “room.”)

Clouseau would start his day with his sun salutation, then go up on the roof to “cat-scan” the neighborhood.  A devotee of yoga, he invented a new pose which he called the “vulture pose.”

As my boy grew in stature, he also became quite the man about town.  The stories of Clouseau are legend.  He actually enjoyed visiting the veterinary clinic when I was traveling.  Of course, he insisted on having full run of the place meowing loudly so he’d be freed from his cage. He made friends with neighborhood kitties, and when he met his girlfriend, Gabrielle, he begged his mom, “Puis-je la garder s’il vous plait maman?” (may I keep her please mama).

A few weeks ago Clouseau became ill, and we discovered he was acutely anemic.  My vet recommended that he go to an emergency veterinary hospital. Of course, Clouseau demonstrated his witchcraft at the new place.  He attempted to steal food from the dog in the next cage and demanded attention all the time.  After some treatment, it was determined he could come home, but the prognosis was devastating and by Saturday, February 10 any hope of more time was dashed.

Clouseau loved being outside, climbing on the roof, sleeping on the hood my car.  We spent his last hours in the backyard while we waited for the vet to arrive, and end his pain.  As he drifted off, I whispered in his ear, “Bonne nuit mon gentil garcon, mon petit bonhomme.  Je t’aime mon cher Clouseau.”

 

 

DO AS I SAY…

DO AS I SAY…

Editor’s Note:  Following is a speech given at Miracle Mile Toastmasters, February 8, 2018

WomanHeart is The National Coalition of Women WITH Heart Disease.  If someone had asked me 5 or 10 years ago, if I would be active in an organization that had as a criterion for membership having a disease, I would have said, “Not me.”  Yet here I am.  Every WomenHeart Champion has heart disease, and each of us has a story.

Let’s get personal.  On January 18, 2016, I awoke with the most horrible pain in my jaw.  I couldn’t believe it.  It felt as if I needed a root canal.  I looked at the clock, it was 12:30 am.  I went into the kitchen to get some water.  As I walked, the pain began to subside.  I was exhausted and thought, “Did I imagine that?  I must have.”  I went back to bed.

About 4 hours later, it happened again.  I woke up with severe pain in my jaw.  I’m smart enough to know that root canal pain does not come and then go on its own.  What to do?  Have you heard of Google?  Yep, that’s what I did, I googled angina.  What I read said it could be a heart attack, but then again, it might not.  Being the outstanding diagnostician that I am, I deduced it was not.  My doctor would be in the office in a couple of hours.  I decided to wait (yet again) and call her.  She said, “Go directly to the ER, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

Ten and a half hours after the first pain, I was diagnosed.  I’d had a heart attack.

Fast forward 1 year.  I was at Cardiac Rehab exercising.  I was pushing up the speed on a treadmill.  I noticed some pressure in my jaw.  No pain – just pressure.  I stopped and had someone check my blood pressure.  It was okay.  I continued with my routine and only as I was leaving did I mention the mild discomfort I’d felt.  The nurse looked at me as if I had 2 heads.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  You need to see your doctor right away.”  I called my internist and explained what had happened.  The next thing I knew I was in her office where the staff told me several times all would be OK.  Oddly enough I wasn’t alarmed until the third, “you’ll be OK.”  The next day I was at the cardiologist’s office, the next week in the cath lab.  I didn’t have a heart attack.  However, my Left Anterior Descending Artery (aka the Widowmaker) was 95% occluded, making it far more dangerous than the attack I’d had a year earlier.

What can you learn from my experience?  You know the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  What were my actions? I ignored symptoms, waited far too long to get help, even worse I diagnosed myself!

Considering that heart disease is the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States, here is what you should do:

Know your risks (some over which you have no control):  If you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, or if you have a family history, you are at higher risk for developing heart disease.

Know your risks Part 2 (you can change these):  If you’re a diabetic, if you are overweight or if exercise is lacking in your day — make changes to your routine, and diet.  And for heaven’s sake STOP SMOKING!

Know your numbers:  Is your cholesterol too high?  What about your HDL and LDL?  How are your triglycerides?  Do you have hypertension?  Remember the guidelines have changed.

All of these risks and numbers apply to everyone in this room.  You may ask, “But, what is WomenHeart?  Why is there a need for an organization just for women with heart disease?”

Let’s look at some facts and statistics.  While 1 in 31 American women die of breast cancer (which is far too many) 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.  Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease.  Let’s say a woman goes to the best cardiologist on the planet.  And that cardiologist gives the VERY BEST advice available.  The reality is that “best advice” may not be the best at all.  Doctors recommendations are often tied to the results of clinical trials.  Today, women comprise less than 27% of the participants in cardiac trials.  Women are not little men.  Their biology is different.

Women’s symptoms during a heart attack are different as well.  Yes, they may have chest pain, but they are likely to present with various indicators such as nausea, feeling light-headed, having extreme fatigue, pain or discomfort in the arm or shoulder, neck or back — and don’t forget my symptoms — pain in the jaw.  With my second event there was NO PAIN — merely pressure in my jaw.  Is it any wonder that women are often misdiagnosed?

The most important thing to do if you have any symptoms of a heart attack is to go the emergency room.  Time is of the essence.  Call 911 or have someone take you.  Do not drive yourself.

Many of you work for companies in this area or belong to organizations that meet locally.  WomenHeart has a program called WomenHeart@Work.  We can design a power point meeting for members of your group, giving each participant facts about taking charge of their heart health.  I have some of our “Bags of Courage”  with information on protecting your heart health as well as my WomenHeart Business Card.  Call me, and we will schedule a presentation, which will be a gift to your company, its employees or members of your organization.

I implore you to “do as I say.”  Education can save the life of a colleague, friend, teammate or partner.  Take this life-saving opportunity.