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!

 

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.

It’s Heart Month!

It’s Heart Month!

Editor’s Note:  As a WomenHeart Champion, I tell “My Heart Story” to educate women about heart disease.  The following message was delivered at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Professional Women’s Sorority in Miami Gardens, Florida.

On Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2016, I awoke at about 12:30 am with a horrific toothache. I got out of bed and meandered into the kitchen to get some water. I was incredibly tired. After a few moments, the pain began to subside. In my exhaustion, I thought, “I must have imagined that,” and I headed back to bed. I had just experienced two symptoms of a heart attack — referred pain in my jaw and extreme fatigue.

About 4 to 5 hours later, the “toothache” returned. I wondered, “Could this be heart-related?” My birth mother had died of a heart attack at the age of 48.  It was early in the morning, but in this marvelous age of technology, Dr. Google is an on-call go to. My diagnosis was that I may be or may not be having a heart attack. Deciding not to rely on indecision, I contacted my physician as soon as her office opened. She said, “Go to the ER and don’t drive yourself.”  The Emergency Room physician confirmed I had indeed had a heart attack.

Fast forward almost one year to the date. I was exercising in Cardiac Rehab when I noticed some pressure in my jaw. It wasn’t pain — just pressure or heaviness in my lower jaw. I asked a nurse to take my blood pressure. It was elevated, but for someone who was working out, that would be expected. I explained what had happened and was told to contact my cardiologist.

Within a week, I was in the Cardiac Cath lab again, my left anterior descending artery (sometimes referred to as the widow maker) was 95% occluded and was stented. I had avoided a second heart attack.

Our bodies are truly remarkable.  They talk to us — sometimes in unusual ways.  Heart attacks vary in intensity and symptomatically.  While some come on suddenly, many have warning signs, hours, days, or even weeks in advance. Here are some symptoms:

    • Pressure, pain or tightness in your chest, arms, neck, or jaw
    • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Cold sweat
    • Fatigue
    • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

Do not ignore these signs.

I get it, we are all busy. Perhaps you have a stressful job, or you’re taking care of the family (often both), and for many in the sandwich generation, you’re taking care of parents.  Women find themselves focused on everyone and everything else, disregarding signals our bodies are sending.

Here is my message to all of you. The next time your body speaks to you, pay attention, whether it’s SHOUTING at, or whispering to you, LISTEN! You may not get a second chance.

MY GREAT GATSBY

MY GREAT GATSBY

Approximately 20 years ago, some neighborhood children knocked at my door.  They were looking for someone to adopt five kittens.  Their story was, the mother died, and they needed to find homes for the babies.  OK, I admit it, I’m a sucker when it comes to abandoned animals.  I found homes for two of the kitties, that left me with three, who later became Scarlett, Melanie, and Gatsby.

Initially, I feared Gatsby had mange.  His fur was falling out, and he was a bit of a mess.  I rushed him to the vet, who explained that being the runt of the litter, the other kittens were probably sleeping on him, while he was on the moist ground.  I brought the little fellow home and bathed him.  That was all he required, and within a short time, he had the most beautiful tuxedo coat.

Gatsby grew into his name and was a “great” cat — affectionate and friendly, except where lizards and the occasional small bird were concerned.  He’d bring home his gifts to mom, and I’d cry out in horror.  He’d roll his eyes and shake his head as if to say, “Really?  I’m a cat. This is who I am!”

As the years moved on, this handsome guy showed signs of aging.  The black and white tuxedo became more grey and white.  Then last year, he appeared to have a mild stroke.   Initially, he had problems walking, but with time, his movement and balance improved.

Today, my sweet boy started meowing loudly.  He was confused and didn’t seem to know where he was.  As I observed him, it became apparent he could not see.

My vet confirmed his vision was all but gone.  Perhaps it was another stroke, we couldn’t be sure.  After consultation with the doctor, I decided it was time to let my Gatsby go.   I held him as he fell into his last sleep.

Goodnight, dear, sweet Gatsby.

 

“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.