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!

 

“If I only had a brain…”

“If I only had a brain…”

As Dorothy was on her way to the Emerald City, to seek help from the great and magnificent Oz, she came upon a fork in the yellow brick road. She pondered aloud, “Which way should I go?” A scarecrow, perched on a pole behind her said, “You can go this way, or you can go that way.” As he uttered those words, his arms crossed in front of him as he pointed in opposite directions.

In the 1939 movie, the scarecrow laments his lack of a brain in a song. One verse goes like this:

I would not be just a Nuthin’,

My head all full of stuffin’,

My heart all full of pain,

And perhaps I’d deserve you and be

Even worthy of you

If I only had a brain.

I’m an “Oz” girl. As a child, I either read the books or my brother read them to me. What I never knew until today, was L. Frank Baum (the author of The Wizard of Oz) was a political activist in the 1890s, and it is thought by many that the story is allegorical for the political, social, and economic happenings of that period.

Todays political, social, and economic happenings are fraught with prejudice, hatred, and anger. Last Sunday more than thirty died in two mass shootings. In El Paso, three young children are parentless, as both their mother and father were among those killed. Countless families are grieving the loss of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms, and dads. As a nation, we sit, asking, “Why?” As a people, we ask, “How many people have to die?” I wonder when our representatives will get a collective brain and DO SOMETHING!

In my serendipitous world, I, as Dorothy, would come across not a scarecrow, but an octopus. Because, in answer to my question, “why is this happening?” the octopus points to White Nationalism, the internet, social media, the use of military-type automatic weapons, mental illness, gun show loopholes, the lack of universal background checks, violent internet games. The octopus pointing in so many different directions gets tangled in his arms and can’t go with me to get a brain.   Once again, nothing gets done.

According to polls, the tide is turning, and Americans believe universal background checks are necessary when purchasing guns. Why not start there?

In politics, there are constituents and representatives. As constituents, we put representatives in office. They work for us, and as such, their behavior indicates if they deserve and are worthy of our votes. It’s easy to let them know what you think. Google your representatives, go to their websites. You will find local and Washington phone numbers, and addresses. Call or write, but do something. If enough constituents let their representatives know a vote for them in the next election is dependent upon them doing their jobs, Washington politicians might just get a collective brain.

Today is the 219th day of the year. To date, there have been 251 mass shootings in the United States. More than 250 people are dead, and more than 1000 have been injured.  Do you prefer to act or live in a potential war zone?

 

Todd Tongen

Todd Tongen

Miami lost a friend.  Todd Tongen, WPLG newscaster and weekend morning anchor passed away over the weekend.  He was a brilliant storyteller and an excellent journalist.  Several years ago, Todd came up with an idea, the “10 Taxi.”  In his role as the taxi driver, he would drive celebrities around town.  There were priceless moments in the cab, as he provided us with interviews with such people as Peter Jennings, Ed McMahon, and Joan Rivers.

There was no doubt Todd loved his job. Whether at the anchor desk, or dressing as a “Todd turkey,” while collecting food for the less fortunate at Thanksgiving, collecting books for disadvantaged kids as part of the WPLG Big Book Drive, or traveling over Dade and Broward counties gathering Toys for Tots at Christmas, he brought enthusiasm, exuberance, and energy to his segments.

I never had the opportunity to meet Todd.  However, as an avid viewer of WPLG, I’ve watched him for decades.  In my mind, he was part of my family.   My heart goes out to his wife and sons, as well as his WPLG family as they mourn his loss.

I was looking at Facebook and found a short Q & A about Todd.  At one point, he was asked to give one word that would describe him.  He said, with that twinkle in his eye, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  If I were asked, I’d choose joy.   In all the years he shared his life with Miami, he demonstrated his happiness with life.  Joy is contagious, and after a few moments of watching Todd, we were happier as well.  Thank you, Todd.

TWO WOMEN

TWO WOMEN

Editor’s Note:  This was first published on April 18, 2017.  Sunday is Mother’s Day, and feeling a little nostalgic, I thought it appropriate to post it again.

I had a birthday last week, and it brought to mind two important women in my life.  The first was my mother.  The second was my mom.

“Huh?” you say.  “I thought you said two, women.”

I was born in a very conservative Midwest.   At that time, a stigma existed about pregnancy without the benefit of marriage.  Judgment and criticism had not evolved much beyond the puritanical beliefs noted in “The Scarlet Letter.”

My mother, Florence, was a self-reliant woman who supported two young children from a previous marriage.  There was no place to hide when she found herself pregnant.

A relative and close friend, Bonnie, approached her regarding her pregnancy.  What could she do to help?  After some conversation, Bonnie had a suggestion.  She said, “I’ve always wanted a girl, and I can’t have more children.  If you have a girl, would you consider letting us adopt her?”

I don’t know how long the two considered this proposal before they agreed.  And, that is how my “mom” came into the picture.

I was raised in a family of four — my mom, dad, and two older brothers.  I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was.  Despite a decade and more age difference between my brothers and I, we’ve always been incredibly close.  My parents were encouraging and supportive of my efforts.  I never questioned the love that surrounded me.  From the beginning, I knew I was adopted, but never knew the circumstances.  Nor did I have a clue Aunt Flo was actually my birth mother.  She did not want me to know, and that fact remained undisclosed until her death when I was eighteen.

My mother gave me life.  My personality is a lot like hers, as is my independent nature.  In many ways I think, as strong as I am, she was so much stronger.  I’ve often wondered how difficult it would be to see your child and never be able to acknowledge the relationship.

My mom brought me into a fantastic loving family.  She was a great parent and as we grew older became my best friend.   She introduced me to the theater, opera, and writing — things I still love.  Who I am today is due primarily to her.

Many years ago two women set forth a plan for my future.  What they decided has affected every aspect of who I am.  There are no words to adequately express my love for them both.

 

My Cousin Bob

My Cousin Bob

After his parents’ divorce, my mom continued a relationship with Bob’s mother.  Bonnibel believed strongly in maintaining family connections.  I’m sure she loved her brother, Louis, but I’m also sure she had many periods when she did not particularly like him.  Louis’ behavior towards Bob and his mother was at the very least deplorable.  So, thanks Mom, for giving me the opportunity me to know Bob Child.

At the age of ten, I was unaware of our many “family secrets,” and was prone to blurt something out when I should have been quiet.  An occasion in 1953 highlights this tendency.  Bob wrote about it in his tome, “Scraps.”

“Sharon Filitti…remarked, ‘You don’t look at all like your brother.'”  That was quite a surprise to Bob, who was unaware of a brother, an adopted sibling from Louis’ second marriage.

There were two things I enjoyed growing up.  One was acting or performing, the other was writing.  As I entered the business world, while writing was not the primary focus of a job, it always became integral to what I was trying to achieve.  As a result, I’ve written advertising copy, resumes for clients, newsletters, scripts, technical material, and training manuals.

During the last decade of the 20th century,  I worked for a company based in Memphis and had to attend meetings at least once a year in Tennessee.  This presented an excellent opportunity to visit Bob and Fran.  There were a few occasions when my brother Ted would drive down from Chicago, while I’d head North from Tennessee, meeting at Cherry Street in Carbondale.  These visits were punctuated by hearty laughter and visits to wineries and various haunts that Bob and Fran enjoyed.

During this time, Bob was getting his book, “Scraps,” published — an overwhelming task at best.  How he had time, I will never know, but he discovered my interest in writing and offered assistance.  I’d found a mentor.

Seeing the flyer for his book revealed Bob’s humor.  There he was in London, with his book in hand, standing in front of Big Ben.  The words said it all, “Point Reached.  Scraps Is Published!  Big Ben Boomed.”

As much as Bob was anti-internet, I found the web a way to start writing.  In 2009, I started a blog.  The title came from my human resources days.  One of my colleagues was continually saying, “Let me share this with you.”  Sharon Share Alike was born.  It lasted only one year.  My all-consuming job interfered, and then there was another website.  Spelled somewhat differently, but getting much more traffic, was Sharon ShareAlike, a website for “a drag queen, entertainer, and emcee, and the creator of BoobsforQueens…”  Oh my God, if Bob had seen that he would have been rolling on the floor in laughter.

My copy of “Scraps,” comes with an inscription:

For Sharon,

In fond encouragement of your writing habit already underway; ignore my copyright using anything you wish, but spell my name right and send me 20% of the gross.  Bob

I’ll always spell your name right, Bob, but where do I send the 20%?

I miss Bob’s way of telling a story and recounting happenings.  He made life interesting, entertaining, and even joyful.  He recognized people’s shortcomings but didn’t dwell on them.

In remembering him, I’ll especially miss his laughter.  Someone said that laughter is the sound of angels singing.   OK, that’s a bit much.  Bob’s laugh was boisterous and loud lending itself more to the irreverent.  On the other hand, it was infectious and fun.

Miss you, dear cousin.

Health Care and the Warm Fuzzies

Health Care and the Warm Fuzzies

You’ve undoubtedly seen the commercials on TV for healthcare insurance.  I call them the “warm fuzzies,” since that’s the feeling they hope to exude.  The actors are smiling, deliriously happy, content and thrilled with their coverage.

Let’s step back a bit and take a realistic look at what happens.  Today, I had an appointment with my cardiologist.  It was made 6 months ago.  I know this because he expressly set up a 6-month follow-up with me.  He’d also made an appointment for some tests which I’d had a week ago.  I received a call last week from the doctor’s office, reminding me of my appointment.

I arrived, signed in and had a seat.  After a moment the lady at the front desk called my name.  It seems there was some question about my appointment.  The staff was missing a referral.  I explained the date had been made months ago and I’d even received a reminder from this office within the last week.  “But we don’t have a referral from your primary.”

I decided to call my internist to find out if they could send a referral.  The receptionist said she’d check on it and put me on hold.  While the “elevator music” was entertaining, after several minutes I decided to call back.  The receptionist explained the person that takes care of referrals was not in.  I’ve seen a note in my internist’s office that there is a 5-day wait on referrals.  I can understand last minute requests need to be discouraged.  On the other hand, I was standing in the cardiologist’s office waiting for my appointment.

I explained to the staff that I could not get the referral.   They were checking with the insurance company and finally offered to have me set up another appointment.  By this time, 45 minutes had passed.  My frustration was palpable, my blood pressure had risen and rather than have a cardiac event in the office, I left.

Once home, I called the insurance company — those people whose biggest thrill in life is to make me deliriously happy.  The member engagement individual attempted to reassure me as she explained what is at best a convoluted system.  When I make an appointment, like this one, 6 months in advance, I have to remember to have my internist send a referral.  However, she can’t do that 6 months out, because it will expire after 3 months.  That’s right folks, I have to wait 3 months and then have my primary doctor send a referral.  My headache was increasing.

I have CVD, a diagnosis that isn’t going away anytime soon.  One might even say it’s a chronic condition.  It’s vital that I see a cardiologist at least once or twice a year.  Apparently, my health insurance company knows better than my doctors, the American Heart Association, and the AMA.

My next call was to my internist.  I explained I needed a referral so I could make an appointment with my cardiologist.  “We need to have the date of the appointment.”

“I don’t have an appointment yet.”

“But we need the date before we can do the referral.”

OMG.  There appears to be a conspiracy.  The medical establishment has decided to do me in.  Mind you, they are all very polite.  If anyone was losing it, it was me – not them.  They all told me how they regretted my plight, but as the words, “I’m sorry….” were uttered, a pause trailed off as if they knew to add the word “but” would indicate their total lack of empathy.

It was time to call the cardiologists office.  I spoke with someone briefly, explaining what had happened.  He put me on hold for a few minutes and then said, the first appointment we have with your doctor is in July.

“Do you not understand he wanted to see me today, six months ago?  Maybe 3 months more won’t hurt, or on the other hand, maybe I’ll be dead by then.”

“I’m sorry, let me check further.”  When he returned to the line, he said he was going to do some more work on this and would call me again in the afternoon.  “Let me see if I have all your information…Oh, I just realized today is your birthday.”

“Yes, it is.  And so far today, the medical establishment seems to be determined it will be my last!”

My 9:45 am appointment has long since passed.  I received a call from the cardiologist’s office.  I have an appointment on May 23rd.  I’ve contacted my internist with the date so a referral can be prepared.  The insurance company assured me that I can verify everything online.  The time is 5 pm.  What a fantastic way to celebrate a birthday.

Like George Bush, I remember a kinder, gentler time, when you could just make an appointment with a doctor and go see him or her.  But now we have warm fuzzies — that only exist in your mind.

 

BODY LANGUAGE

BODY LANGUAGE

The definition of body language is, “the process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements.”  But, I’m thinking of something different.  I’m here to discuss how your body speaks to you.  If you are sick, your body might ache, and your temperature rise.  These are straightforward messages from your body.  However, sometimes, the language is more subtle.  Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.  It’s Martin Luther King’s birthday, 2016 about 12:39 am.

I awoke in extreme pain.  I had a toothache.  It’s the kind of pain you feel when you require a root canal.  I got out of bed, walked into the kitchen and got a drink of water.  As I wandered around the house, the pain began to subside.  I was exhausted and asked myself, “Did I really feel that?”  I finally convinced myself it was my imagination and went back to bed.

A few hours later, the pain returned.  I’ve undergone a root canal, and I know the pain doesn’t come and go.  I was also aware that when having a heart attack, one can experience referred pain.  Instead of feeling pain in your chest, it can be in your head, neck, arms, or back.  I figured I’d better check this out — and I did.  I went straight to Dr. Google.  I looked up angina.  There’s stable and unstable angina, the latter indicating a heart attack.

Not having graduated from medical school, but considering myself an excellent diagnostician, I determined I did NOT have a heart attack.  Mind you, I had just read on the Mayo Clinic site that unstable angina occurs even at rest (I was asleep) and often is unexpected.

My doctor’s office would be open in a couple of hours, and I decided to call her.  In the meantime, I took a shower, dressed, and worked in my office.

I explained to the receptionist I believed I might be having angina.  The doctor got on the phone and asked for my symptoms.  I told her what had occurred and she said, “Go to the Emergency Room.”

I countered with, “Well, I thought I’d just come to your office.”

“I don’t have time to drive you to the ER.  Go to the hospital … and don’t drive yourself.”

After some blood tests, chest x-rays, and EKGs, a young ER doctor came to the room I was in and said, “You’ve had a heart attack.”  Quite frankly, he looked to me to be about 19.  What could he possibly know?  Apparently, more than I.  Within minutes a very tall cardiologist walked in and said, “You’ve had a heart attack.  We won’t know the severity until you have a cardiac catheterization.”

Ten hours had passed since I felt the first pain.  Also, I’d experienced fatigue, another symptom of a heart attack.  What did I do as I was having a heart attack?  I went back to bed, diagnosed myself, worked in my office, and yes, took a shower!  Had my occlusion been in a different artery, those decisions could have been fatal.

Like many victims of a heart attack, I looked at the event and my quick recovery and figured, that’s it — I’m well.  I actually thought, “Is that all there is to a heart attack?”  What I didn’t consider is the cause and effect aspect.   The heart attack was fixed with a stent. However, the underlying cause, cardiovascular disease, was still with me.

Almost one year to the date of my event, I was exercising more rigorously than usual in Cardiac Rehab when I began feeling some pressure in my jaw.  No pain, just pressure.  I stopped and asked someone to take my blood pressure.  It was elevated from exercise, but nothing concerning.  So I continued my routine.  As I was leaving, I mentioned what had happened to a nurse.  She said to call my doctor.  I did and was told to come right in.  My doctor, in turn, called my cardiologist and within a week I was back in the cath lab.

I had somehow avoided a second heart attack.  However, my Left Anterior Descending Artery  (a/k/a WidowMaker) was 95% occluded.  This event was potentially worse than the earlier heart attack.

Your body speaks to you.  I pretty much ignored my first cardiac encounter.  Fortunately, even though the second message was much more subtle, I listened.  Quick action saved my life.

Here are my rules to live by.  First, listen to your body.  Second, know your numbers:

Blood Pressure:  The new “Normal” is less than 120/80

Triglycerides:  Normal is less than 150mg/dl

Cholesterol:  LDL less than 70 (it was 100); HDL more than 40

Third, get some exercise.  You don’t need a gym.  Go for a walk in the park or if the weather is not conducive, go to a mall.  The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Oh, and if you’re still smoking, STOP!

Our bodies speak to us when something is wrong, in a language that is sometimes confusing or subtle.  In our busy worlds, we tend to ignore the message or pull a Scarlett O’Hara saying, “I just can’t think about this now.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.”  But here’s the rub: tomorrows aren’t guaranteed.

Editors Note:  This was a speech given at Miracle Mile Toastmasters on March 7, 2019.

 

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

 

Who do you think of when you hear these words: feisty, determined, flirty, independent?  The first person who comes to my mind is Scarlett O’Hara.  Not only do I think of the character in “Gone With The Wind,” but I’m also reminded of my little cat, Katie Scarlett.  She arrived when some neighborhood children found Scarlett and her four siblings. She immediately claimed her dominance among the pride.  I found homes for two kittens, three remained with me – Scarlett, Melanie, and Gatsby.

Walking my sister’s dog was an adventure for Scarlett.  She ran ahead, came back and informed the dog she was far too slow, urging her to speed up the pace.  A neighbor, down the street, had a bird bath in her back yard.  Now there was a favorite place for my little girl.  She’d crouch and hide, waiting for a bird to land.  Then as it took wing, she’d leap in the air, sometimes catching her prey.  There was more than one time I was running to save the bird.  Her agility was stunning, especially for such a petite kitty.

I traveled in my last job, and my neighbor’s boys took turns petsitting for my cats.  I returned one day and realized after a few moments that someone was missing.  Where was Scarlett?  I went outside calling her name and clapping my hands.  I walked toward the birdbath house, and suddenly she appeared.  She had a lot to say.  I don’t know how long she was outside, but it was long enough for her to vent her anger.  Her meowisms could be interpreted to mean, “Where have you been?  Do you know how long I’ve been out here?  I’m hungry.  Get me some food!  After I eat, I’m going to bed — don’t disturb me.  I need my beauty sleep.”  Scarlett did not suffer in silence.

Those memories are from long ago.  My Katie is 19 years old (or 92 in human years).  Life has become more difficult.  She’s not interested in grooming herself, and her fur is somewhat matted.  Her teeth are getting lose so eating is a challenge.  My beautiful Katie Scarlett seems to be saying, “It’s time to call it a day.”

The downside for any pet owner is accepting the end and making it easier for our little friends.  As I think about Scarlett’s quote, “After all, tomorrow is another day,” I realize sadly it will be a day without my little darling.  Rest in Peace dear Scarlett.

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