January Health Scare

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t make resolutions, because I know I won’t keep them, but I do try to evaluate the habits I have that keep me from living life the way I want to live it.  At the beginning of a new year, I think of getting up earlier, being more productive with my time, writing more, losing weight, exercising.  I doubt I’m any different than anyone else.  I just hope to look at the new year through new eyes so I can gain a new perspective. (In the photo below, I am using 2018 glasses as a headband.)   

I had such hopes for the first of year.  I was for sure going to get back to blogging.  I have truly missed it.  I knew the only way I would get back to blogging by reading, commenting, and writing again would be if I made some changes to my daily schedule.  I would have to stop settling in my chair with a cup of coffee, my iPad, and checking out Facebook, and my new time waster,  Instagram.  Honestly, I have wasted, yes wasted, way too much time with this kind of start to the day.

I read two newspapers before I get going, so by the time I even think of getting up out of that favorite chair to make my breakfast, the morning has been whittled away to nothing.

Yes, I resolved, this year, I was going to get up early and get going with being productive in 2018.

On the January 1, 2018, we didn’t get up early because we had been out celebrating too late.  We aren’t kids anymore, so staying up partying until way after midnight means that we start the new year by sleeping in.

The night before on New Year’s Eve, we spent a wonderful night celebrating with my cousin and her husband at their beautiful home.  They have a group of friends from high school days that they celebrate with, so we were happy they invited us to join them.  I said we were the chaperones since these “kids” are half a decade younger.  We had so much fun.  The party was a great success.  Our host cooked a marvelous meal.  After eating, we watched the fireworks that were set off from the top of Pikes Peak, then we drank a bit of champaign, sang Auld Lang Syne, toasted each other and the new year, took a few more photos, and then headed home.

We had plans for the first day of the year that included taking down Christmas.  Jim and I decided that the tree would stay up another day because we were too tired to take it down on January 1st.  In fact, we didn’t take down any of the Christmas decorations.  We would do that the next day, on January 2.

Early in the morning on the second day of January 2018, my husband woke me out of a deep sleep by calling my name in a voice that startled me.  When I was finally able to respond, he said, “I don’t feel well at all.  I’m sweating.  At times I’m hot, then I’m cold, and I am really dizzy.”  I was immediately out of bed and standing next to him at his side of the bed.  Indeed, he was sweating.  He was in a cold sweat.  In fact, his forehead was very clammy.  I asked what he was experiencing, and was told he’d been like this for at least 45 minutes.  He said he’d gotten up and made his way to the bathroom but barely made his way back because he was so dizzy.  

I ran for the blood pressure cuff and took his blood pressure.  It was extremely low.  I asked what he wanted me to do, or I guess I actually gave him two choices: did he want to go to the hospital by car or by ambulance.  I asked about other symptoms while I quickly threw on clothes and shoes.  He said he wanted me to drive him to the hospital and said he had no other symptoms.  (He actually kept a few important facts from me because I think he knew I would have called an ambulance had I’d known all his symptoms.)  His dizziness made it difficult for us to make to the car, but we made it.  The nearest hospital is only ten minutes away, so I wasn’t too concerned as I made my drive, but honestly, I kept wishing I’d called an ambulance.

Once in the ER, he told the nurses that he had numbness in his left arm and left foot.  He also had chest pain.  That is when all the tests began as they tried to find out what was going on with him.  

The hospital near us is a new one, and the hospital and the staff are wonderful.  We had help immediately.  He had a CT scan, EKG, and blood work done in less than an hour.  All tests came back looking good, but Jim continued to be dizzy, and he continued to have severe numbness on his left side.  

He slept from the time I got him there around 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  After speaking with specialist at the University affiliated hospital across town, it was determined that Jim would be transported to that hospital for further testing and observation.  It was suspected that he had experienced a TIA (transient ischemic attack).  

After nearly twelve hours in the emergency room of the original hospital where I had taken him, he was transported to Main by ambulance.  I was skeptical that anything would happen that night in the way of talking to a neurologist or of having tests.  I could not have been more wrong.  

Jim was admitted to a room in a new wing of the hospital devoted only to stroke victims.  On the very day that this new Comprehensive Stroke Center for southern Colorado was announced in the news, Jim became one of its patients.  We could not have been more impressed.  He was barely in his room when he was visited by the neurologist who already had been speaking with the ER doctor and had seen his tests from the ER.  Soon, a hospitalist was at his bedside also.  That night Jim had three MRIs and was constantly monitored while also being evaluated for stroke symptoms continually.  He was also given many tests for his heart.  

Thankfully, all tests came back not showing a stroke, and his heart also checked out well.  (Jim had a heart attack when his LAD was 95% blocked in 2011.)(click the highlighted area to read about this event) As a result of all of the testing and his symptoms, it was determined that Jim most likely did have a TIA.  The first twenty-four hours after such an event are the most dangerous, so he was monitored until late in the day of January 3, then after making a few changes in his medicine, he was discharged, and we went home with grateful hearts because it all could have been so much worse.  

I did not expect to begin 2018 with a medical scare.  We both have had a big wake-up call when it comes to listening to our bodies.  A word of caution to us all:  If it seems things are really off, if dizziness is nearly knocking one to the floor, if blood pressure is extremely low, if parts of the body are numb, then get to the hospital, preferably via an ambulance.  Time is of the essence if one is experiencing a stroke.  Also, a TIA is not to be dismissed as a small matter.  Within the first 24 hours after such an event one is at risk of a stroke.  Also, one is more highly at risk of having a stoke after experiencing a TIA.  

We have both resolved to focus on making better choices when it comes to our health.  Jim is working hard on his diet and is losing weight.  I am trying to do the same.  We are trying to eat at home more and eat out less.  We are trying to get to bed a bit earlier.  We are exercising.  Jim is always better at that than I am, but we both are trying to do better in 2018 than we did in 2017.  

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2018 for us both!

Today, we took it easy and rested.  I didn’t want to go to church with all the flu that is out there.  I also felt we just needed to rest up because yesterday I felt like I was fighting off some bug.  Thankfully, today whatever was making me achy and chilled and tired headachy and sick feeling left me.  We went for a nice walk this afternoon.  As we walked, linking my arm through Jim’s, I said, “You know I don’t take this ability to walk together on this crisp January afternoon lightly.  We are so blessed to have each other and to be healthy enough to walk and enjoy life.  That opportunity has been denied so many from our same age group."  We’ve lost friends and acquaintances in the past year to heart attacks, cancer, falls, and other illnesses.  

One thing I know for certain:  we have absolutely no guarantees in life.  Resolutions may be the thing we think we should do at the beginning of the year, but I have decided that for me instead of worrying about how I am spending my time, I’m going to focus on being grateful for the time I have to spend.  I think gratitude is a great informer when it comes to making choices on how to spend time.

Each day is a gift.  Each moment we have to share with each other is a treasure.  If we spend too much time staying up late reading, that is ok.  At least we can still read.  Besides, we love sitting side by side reading late into the night.

If we sit and sip coffee all morning and don’t accomplish anything, that too is ok.  We love our morning routines of chatting, reading the newspaper, and catching up with the world.  

If Jim has to hustle off to work, I try to hustle off to do something productive while he is gone.  I’m grateful he can still work and that he loves his work so much.  

On our way home from our walk today, we changed up the route a bit.  It threw Boston off his game.  He is used to our same routine and route.  As we approached our home, he threw us off a bit too when he suddenly jumped up on a bench in our neighbor’s yard.  He used to love to jump up on walls and benches as a pup.  Today, I guess he felt young at heart and just had to jump up on that once favorite bench of his like he did when he was younger.  Or maybe, he just wanted to have a closer adoring look at his master.  Maybe he too was grateful for walk on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in January and he just want to make sure his master knew it.  These two love each other.  This photo is priceless.

Life truly is best lived in the moment.  Treasure each one you have with your loved ones.  Let them know it by giving them one of those adoring looks when you gaze in each other’s eyes. Or, you might just want to kick up your heels and do what you used to love to do when you were younger.  Moments like these are something to bark about.  

Celebrating a Change of Heart

Two years ago, the quality of my life was not great.  The core problem, the heart of the matter, the nitty-gritty of it all, was that my heart was not working properly.  I had developed a heart syndrome called tachy-brady. Sometimes, it is also called sick sinus syndrome.  The first time I heard my primary doctor say to me "I think you have sick sinus syndrome," I was clueless as to what it meant, but I knew it wasn't good.  In truth, she was the first to come up with this diagnosis, one that the nurse practitioner at my cardiologist's office dismissed.  By the time the GP, reading the same sleep study report that my cardiologist had received, made this observation, I already had an extensive file containing drugs tried, tests done, and procedures considered for troubling symptoms of arrhythmia.

A year before the final slump with a heart not functioning correctly, I had a heart ablation to correct tachycardia, a rhythm problem that the heart will sometimes develop that will cause the heart to beat too fast.  After the ablation, I felt wonderful and was able to carry on with my life until about six or eight months later when I again began to experience a wildly beating heart that would leave me exhausted and faint.  A sleep study was ordered to see if I was getting enough oxygen at night.  I wasn't, but adding oxygen at night didn't help my faintness and exhaustion.

 Diagnosing my problem was a process.  It wasn't enough to have a GP say that she thought I had sick sinus syndrome.  Diagnosis for me involved having a small device called a loop recorder implanted in my left breast. This miraculous little device allowed my doctor to see exactly what was going on in this heart of mine when it would decide not to beat properly.  I had the recorder fewer than two weeks before it was determined that I needed a pacemaker.  

Getting that pacemaker changed my heart, the way it beat, and it changed my life.  A pacemaker gave me my life back.  Today, two years ago the miracle of modern medicine allowed for a device to be implanted in my body which would monitor my heart and keep it from going too fast or too slow.  I can now walk longer distances, walk up hills, and I can go about the business of my life with few problems with my heart.  I am so grateful.

Two years ago, just before I received the pacemaker, I remember sitting in the my chair in the living room feeling quite sorry for myself as my husband went out for a long walk in the neighborhood with the dog and without me.  I remember that while he was gone my heart rate went down in the 30's and my blood pressure plummeted so low that I had to call the doctor.  He ordered me to get to the hospital.  It was Easter Sunday.  I did not want to go to the hospital with yet another heart episode, but I had no choice.  When my husband got back from his walk, he had to take me to the hospital.  They almost implanted the pacemaker that night, but finally determined I would be safe to wait a few days for the procedure.

I don't take being able to walk at the altitude where I live for granted.  I am grateful I am able to go for my daily walks and enjoy the beauty of the world around me.  Today, the sky was as blue as it could be.  I never tire of looking at the rock formations near my home.  They fascinate me.  They remind me just why I love to live where I do.  My marmalade cat rock (I love her) looks down on me as I walk by her, and seems to say, "I'm happy to see you out and about today."  (She is the rock formation on the top right.)  The table rock on the lower right is still waiting for one you to come and join me for a tea party on her flat surface.

I never could have made it through the bouts with my health that I have had without the guy by my side, my dear and greatly loved husband.  It is so good to walk through this life with him.  I so love when we go on walks together.  Today, I said, "I love where we live," as we sat on our patio after our walk.  With my camera, I captured this laugh on his face when he brought up my one complaint about where I live, "Except for crawlspace in the basement."  Hey, I'd probably live in crawlspace with the guy, but don't tell him that.  He keeps me laughing.  He keeps me keeping on.

I can't forget how much I love my other loyal companion.  He also is always at my side.  (Except when his master is home.  Then he is by his side.)  I love my Boston boy too.

Today, was such a beautiful day.  The sun was shining.  The sky was blue.  My man was by my side.  Even the daffodils I planted around our new patio last fall were blooming.

On this glorious spring day, I was able to walk 1.9 miles, gaining 137 feet in altitude at an altitude of over 6,600 feet.  My average heart rate was 115 BPM.  Look at this cool map that shows my route.  (Thank you Jim for my Apple watch which tracks such things.)  

I could do this because of that change of heart I had two years ago.  That is something to celebrate.  

Happy Birthday to My Husband

 Memories of those days long ago 
have become a bit blurred around the edges.


the focal point of my life when I was sixteen,
and you were seventeen,


 all that my young girl's imagination
 desired in a young man
 to whom she could give her heart.

We were young,
but we had our dreams for the future.

You were so steady.
Always the good 
you were popular with your peers and your teachers.
the student athlete,
thrilled my heart,
as I, sitting on the grass at Runyon field,
watched you play first base with such confidence and skill.

You, King of the Sock Hop,
a senior,
big man on campus,
brought me,
a sophomore girl, with absolutely no self-confidence,
to that dance where you reigned as king.

You were genuine.
A real gem.
I wasn't the only one who realized what a great guy you were.
All the other girls in the school voted you as king of the sock hop.

Those long ago days left me with such sweet memories:
drives in your car dragging Main,
City Park, where we would ride the merry-go-round,
picnics in Beulah, 
and your graduation from high school.

You told me the night you graduated what you would do with your life.
You said you would teach when you finished college.
You said you wanted me to marry you when we were done with college.
I was only sixteen.
You were seventeen.
I knew you would accomplish all you said you would accomplish.
You did.

You worked hard to pay your own way through college.
You taught German and English.
You became a high school counselor.
You became a high school principal.
You even married me.
That took a bit longer.
I never had the good sense to marry you until thirty years after that first proposal.

I carry many images of you in my head.
Yours is my favorite face to photograph.

In this one,
you are in your element.*

that intangible aura of leadership,
is captured so well in this, 
one of my favorite photos of you.
This photo captured so much of you.

Your sparkly brown eyes framed by scholarly looking frames on your glasses,
are focused on the student to whom you are so intently listening.
That's you.
You are engaged and engaging.
The smile on your face reflects
your kind, fatherly heart,
and your sense of humor,
and of how much you love being with young people.

You are dressed in your black jacket South High School that you wore to all those football games.
The Colt emblem,
strategically placed over your heart,
speaks of your love for and devotion to the school where you served as principal.

You, the son of refugees, had donned this warm jacket for the ferry ride over the cold choppy waters to Ellis Island.
This place, a gateway for so many of the ancestors of your students,
was not the gateway for your family.
Your parents were refugees from Germany.
They escaped the Holocaust.

They had such dreams for you,
the son born on American soil,
the son born after your dear parents had taken such an arduous journey from Nazi Germany.

Your father wanted you to be a teacher,
"It is a noble profession," 
he said as he advised you during one of those treasured talks you would have with him on the front porch of your home during your youth.

He died during your first year of teaching.
He did not live to see you flourish in that noble profession.

I am the one able to see you come full circle from those days of 
to this one moment in time 
in your element,
fully engaged with the student toward whom
your head is slightly bent
give credence to the school motto which has become your legacy:
Do Right.
Be Kind.


Tomorrow is your birthday.
When I look at your kind and loving face,
I know how blessed I am to have you in my life.
You, my dear husband,
have kept those traits that I recognized so many years ago.
Your faithfulness towards me is never in question.
Your love for me and your family has remained strong and supportive through so many storms of life.
You continue to make me smile and laugh at your great sense of humor.
You are so down to earth and loving.
You send me cute, loving little notes and emojis from you latest gadget, your Apple watch throughout the day.
You make me smile.
You bring joy to my heart.

So here we are in seventies.
How did we get here?

You never seem to age.
You continue to work at your new career at the Apple Store.
You come home from work full of enthusiasm and energy.
You are not one to retire.
When you are home, your favorite thing to do is to walk our dear Boston.
You love your boy.

Our lives are rich in love and companionship.

Your life has been a gift to me.
All those characteristics and traits that I hoped for in the man I hoped to marry someday when I was just a young girl
truly are embodied in you, 
my dear and cherished husband.

I love you beyond measure.

Happy birthday.

Credits: * I did not take the photograph of you on the ferry to Ellis Island.  It was captured by the mother of a student, the gifted writer and photographer Cathy Ames-Farmer.  

Triple A to The Rescue ~ To Whom Do You Call When You Need A Friend?

Today was one of those mornings that began with a startled awakening.
The cell phone next to my bed rang at 5:30.
Even though the phone I.D. was not one I recognized, my heart was racing so fast, I could barely say “Hello.”
It was the substitute teacher line calling to see if I would accept a job for the day.

Thankful that the call was not from a loved one in crisis needing help, I hung up the phone and went back to sleep.

Those calls for help that come at unexpected times can be so unsettling.
I’ve had my share of them.
I’ve made my share of them.

It seems at one time or another, we all must make one those calls for help.

To Whom Do You Call When You Need Help?

Later in the day, my resident techie, AKA my husband, went out to my car to sync my new phone to the wireless system in the car.
It was then that he discovered that the car battery would not turn over.
Since he was leaving for work in a short time, he told me to call Triple A.
“The battery is still under warranty, and it is an AAA battery, so everything should be ok,” he said as he handed me a credit card to be used just in case I had to put in a new battery.

Triple A,
You saved the day again.
Thank goodness I could call you when I needed you.
I owe you a lot, Triple A.

A Short Story About Triple A
Back in late ’80s or early ‘90s, I was a single mom living in Colorado Springs.  One day, I had one of those mornings that had a very bad start.  I was supposed to leave for the hospital for an outpatient surgical appointment when I discovered that my car had a flat tire.  A friend was scheduled to bring me home from the hospital, but that friend was at work and would not be able to help me with the flat tire.  I had no idea whom I should call.  Everyone I knew was working.  So, knowing full well there was absolutely nothing he could do about the situation, I called my dad.  He lived over three hundred miles away.  But, he was the one I called and cried into the phone, “Daddy, my tire is flat and I have to be at the hospital in half an hour.  I don’t know what to do.”  Daddy knew just what to do.  He called Triple A, signed me up for a membership, and sent them out to the house to fix my tire.  He then paid my membership for the next year because he didn’t want me stranded with no one to help me.  It was good to have someone to call when I had trouble with that old car of mine. 

In 1991, I was shocked one day when I received a telephone call at work from my old high school sweetheart.  He said he had recently gone through a divorce and wondered if I’d like to go to lunch.  It had been thirty years since we had dated, but he had always held a special place in my heart because he was such a dear, kind, and giving friend and sweetheart. In the thirty years since we had dated, we both had married others, but through friends, we always knew something of each other’s lives.  

Back in 1991, I had been single for ten years and was quite independent, but I also still drove that very old Ford Fairmont, so I always kept up my trusty Triple A membership.  Jim, newly divorced, driving the old car that he was left with after his divorce, drove forty miles from Pueblo to Colorado Springs to take me, his old love from back in the early 60’s, to lunch.  I guess he was pretty nervous about the trip, and about taking me out again after all those years, so he drove up the highway with his lights on even though it was was the middle of the day.  
Jim picked me up at my house and off we went for lunch at the Olive Garden.  We had a delightful time at lunch catching up on the past thirty years.  He hadn’t changed a bit.  He was still that kind, loving, giving, successful, funny, and charming person I had adored as a teenager.
After a long lunch, we headed out to his car so he could take me back home.  That is when he discovered the battery was dead.  He’d neglected to turn off his car lights and they had remained on during our long lunch.  The poor guy looked like he was going to die when he realized his car battery was totally dead on his first date with a woman he hadn’t seen for thirty years.  “No problem,” I said.  “I have Triple A.”  We’ll just go over to the mall and find a phone and call them to come and help.”  (Those were the days before cell phones!)  So, that’s what we did.  Triple A came to the rescue. 

Later, Jim, with that twinkle in his eye,  would always tell everyone that was when he decided for sure he was going to marry me.  “She had Triple A.  I thought that would be a good thing to have.”  

Thanks Triple A for always coming to the rescue, and for landing me a man! 

Jim and Sally

To Whom Do You Call When You Need A Friend?

Today, as I reminisced about how our courtship began with Triple A, I also started thinking of my dear daddy and how he was always there for me for so many years when I needed him. 

My father and I
I then thought about the time thirteen years ago, when I got the call that he needed me.  In 2001 and 2002 for about six months, from June or July until the next March, my father had really gone down hill physically once shingles attacked his aging body the summer before his death.  I had gone over that summer and had to have that talk with him.  You know the talk that takes place between adult children and their parents when suddenly one feels like the parent instead of the child.  Daddy was in so much pain from the shingles.  He had diabetes, and he wouldn’t eat.  He was miserable. My poor mother was getting nowhere with him.  He was stubborn, and he was not being cooperative.  Finally, I told him I was taking him to the hospital if he didn’t eat.   He must have believed me because he started drinking his Ensure.  He knew I was as stubborn as he was.  I’d learned that trait from the best of them.  He knew I’d take him to the hospital if I felt it was necessary, and he didn’t want to go.  

When my husband and I went over for Christmas later that year, I was shocked at how frail he had become since my last visit that had occurred just before school had started that fall. When we left for home at Christmas, I said I’d try to be back over during Spring Break. In March of 2002, my mother called on a Thursday and asked, “Are you on Spring Break?”  “No, Mother, not until next week.”  “She said, “The doctor just put your father in the hospital and he’s asking for you.  He wants you to come.  You’re the one he’s asking for.”

Needless to say, as soon as I could wrap up the finals I was grading, I made my way to his bedside which was six hours away.  He passed away on the next Monday, which happened to be the first day of Spring Break.  I always believed that my father hung on as his life was slipping away so that I wouldn’t have to take off from work to be at his bedside. 

He was like that. He had a heart that looked out for others He was one of the most giving persons I ever knew.  I always knew I could count on my father.  He could be generous to a fault when he saw a need.  I remember as he was dying in the hospital that he heard one of the nurses telling how she had cancer and was working because she needed the insurance.  We thought he was asleep while she talked to us about hospice.  When she left the room, he spoke to my mother, “Mother, make sure you find out that nurse’s name and write her a check.” 

I think the self confidence that others have always said I have comes from my father’s influence in my life.  He taught me so much about life.  I think it was his love and knowing he would be there for me and that he was very proud of me that caused me to have the confidence to accomplish whatever goals I have reached in my life.  
My father, mother, and I at my graduation when I earned my first college degree.
BS in Business Administration
Later I would earn a BA in English and a MA in Teaching English as a Second Language

Life isn’t fair, but it was from my dad that I learned that I should “keep my head together.”  He taught me to be tough when I needed to be.  He taught me, as the song, You’ve Got A Friend, says, 
People can be so cold,
They’ll hurt and desert you.  Well they’ll take your soul if you let them,
Yeah, but don’t you let them.

He always encouraged me to be my own person and to think for myself.  He challenged us to be thinkers and not followers.  He taught me not to let others treat me with disrespect.
He was that one that I knew would be there for me no matter what.  He believed in me.  He wasn’t one to rescue me.  He didn’t open up his checkbook and help me out of tight spots.  He was a generous man, but also was a wise man that knew I would figure out how to make it on my own and would be stronger and better for it.  His belief in me was the impetus that gave me confidence throughout the entire time he was on this earth.  His belief in me is still carried in that special place in my heart that is reserved for a daughter's love for her daddy.  I knew he was proud of me, and that meant the world to me.  I think he would be one of my best blog readers.  He loved to write.  He loved a good story.  He was a great storyteller.  I learned to love reading and writing from him.  I wish I had told him more often how much he meant to me. I recently was given all the cards I’d sent him over the years.  He’d kept them all.  I miss my father so much.

Now, I have my dear husband to call.  Jim, my dear high school sweetheart from long ago, has always shown me a special kind of love.  This poor man gets so many calls from me.  Whenever, I need him, I call.  He is always there.  Always.  In the past five years, my once strong self-confidence was rocked to the core after the death of my daughter.  Suffering from PTSD that is common to survivors of suicide, I have sometimes been racked by anxiety.  Only my husband knows how much I suffer, and only my husband can calm me down when I need calming down the most.  He is the one I call out to in the middle of the night, or when I am driving down the road, or sitting next to him in the living room.  He is the one I call when I need him to talk me through my times of anxiety and stress.  No one knows how many times he has sat with me in the middle of the night when I have had an anxiety attack or when my heart has gone into wild arrhythmia and is racing at 150 beats a minutes and won’t slow down.  He is always there when I call.  I don’t know what I would do without his kindness, his wisdom, his support, his love.  I don’t know what I’d do if he weren’t there for me.  He is the friend that knows me better than anyone knows me.  He is the one that is straight with me in a firm and loving way.  He is the one to whom I call, and he has never let me down.  Thank you Jim for being there.  I love you.  And, thank you Daddy, for being there for me too, and for getting me that first Triple A card.

To whom do you call when you need a friend?  

Valentine's Day Reflections on Love and Loss

A Reflection on Love and Loss

So many words will be spoken about love today.
Some will be forgotten by tomorrow.
Flowers will be sent.
Candy will be received.
Cards will be picked out that the sender hopes will send just the right message.
Love is in the air,
or so it seems.

I would not describe myself as a romantic.
Generally, I don't read romance novels.
In fact, if the truth be told,  romance novels grate on my nerves.
I do love to read great love stories.
I like love stories that read like real life.
I like stories that tell how love survives no matter what life throws at it.
Or I like stories where the love may not survive,
but the person survives the loss of love and thrives after that loss.

I guess I'm too realistic to be a romantic.

I've learned real love outlasts dazzling romance.

When my husband and I married, 
I had a song sung at our wedding by Michael Card.  
The lyrics to the song are taken from the Song of Solomon.
"Arise, My Love"

I love the words of this song because they speak truth.
They speak of a love that honors the loved one.
The song speaks of seeking that the love one has for the other be sealed on the loved one's heart.

Set me like a seal on your heart,
For love is unyielding as the grave.
The flash of it is a jealous fire,
No flood can quench,
For love is as strong as death.

Even though we were "older when we married,

we had not idea what life would bring us when we married.
 No one does.
Jim and Sally 1992

Since those early days of marriage, we've aged.
We've been through good times, very good times.
We've been through rough times,  very rough times,
Today, more than twenty years after our marriage, I rejoice that I can say

My beloved is mine, and I am his.
Song of Solomon 2:16 NKJV

Jim and Sally 2013

Our's is a romantic story, but it is also a story of faithfulness in times of trial and loss.
It is about two people who deeply love and respect each other.
It is about two people who are as different from one another as any two can be.
It is a story about how differences between two people give strength to the relationship.
Where I am weak, he is strong.
And, the vice versa is also true.
Our's is a story of how the relationship between two people created a great team.
It is a story of deep companionship.
I have learned a lot about love from this man that I married.

Loss has also taught me much about love.

The biggest lesson of all is:

Love does not die.

As I look at this photo that Julie took of Phoenix on her last Valentine's Day on this earth,
I am overcome with grief in many ways.
(I also apologize to her siblings if this photo causes them too much pain when they see this.)
Certainly, I am so overwhelmed with a sense of loss today that tears have been silently falling from my eyes nearly all morning.
News that a friend of Julie's just learned of her death just sent all of us back into new waves of grief.

Grief is like that.

It assaults you, the griever, when you least need or want its presence in your life.
Today, my bereavement feels as fresh as newly fallen snow.
Bereavement ~ to be torn apart.

I mourn anew.

…mourning is the outward expression of grief.

So what am I to learn about love  on this day dedicated to love?

I've learned that I am shifting and moving to a new place.

I am moving from the relationship of the presence of my dearly loved daughter being in my daily life
the place where
I have a deeper relationship with the memory of her.

I see the photo above and I smile.

I remember an exchange with her about the photo and the heart that she claimed Phoenix drew for her in the snow.

I am learning that my love for her has only gotten stronger as time passes.

The loved one lives on in the heart of the one who loved him or her so deeply.

For me, my love for my daughter is always fresh and new.

Not all memories of her are happy.

Sometimes, the memories are filled with anger, pain, and deep sorrow.
Other memories make me laugh.
Some memories of her fill me with so much pride.
Memory honors the loved one best when it remembers them as they really were.

The memories of Julie are sharp at times, and blurred at other times.

I no longer focus on the death of my daughter as much I remember her life.

This is a healing place to be.

Silly picture of Julie making faces with Phoenix

I feel blessed because Julie was so deeply loved by so many.

She had so many friends.
They continue to love her.
The memory of her has not died.

Oh, how I wish she were still here making memories with us,

but, she is not.

She remains safely sealed with  love in my heart.

Love is stronger than death.

Love remains.

The Healing Is Coming Along Nicely

Today, marked a milestone for my husband as he continues to heal.  He walked to the top of the hill near our house and back home again.  A forty-five minute walk in the neighborhood was quite an accomplishment for him as his back surgery was just twelve days ago.  As we began the walk, he said his legs felt weak, but he had no pain.  By the time we finished the walk, he said he felt stronger than he had when we first started out.  This evening, we walked around our block twice.  I continue to marvel at how well he is doing.  We had a full day of having the car serviced and dinner out.  He said today he felt the best he has in a very long time.  This is excellent news!

It is so good to have my man back at my side for our daily walks.  Even better, he is no longer suffering and in pain when he walks.  For the most part, our roles have reversed somewhat.  I now walk the dog, and he carries the poop bag.  (Someone has to do it.)   I told Boston there would be a new sheriff in town just before "The Boss" had his surgery.  "The Boss," my name to Boston for his master, is much more lenient when it comes to discipline where the "The Boy" or Boston is concerned.  I think Jim feels a bit guilty that the dog can't run free after all the bunnies that populate the neighborhood, so he will allow Boston to charge after a bunny until he comes to the end of his leash.  A few times, I've been afraid the dog would topple Jim over as he charges off.

I, on the other hand, like a well disciplined dog as a walking companion.  So, the task of getting this dog to heel in a highly distractible environment has been one I have been working on these few weeks.  I am training Boston, rather late in his life, to stay by my side while walking without thinking he is free to run as if he were at the dog park.  I am using a gentle leader collar and treats to accomplish my training goals.  The treats always work.  He is coming along nicely in his training, but he hates the gentle leader.  I have always enjoyed walking my dogs, but Boston has always been a challenge for me, so while Jim's back is healing, Boston and I are learning to walk together.

The first few days after surgery are never great, and Jim had a rough couple of days after surgery.  In the long run though, we are amazed at how quickly he has recovered from back surgery.  That being said, I hope he never ever has to have another surgery such as this again.  It is just too hard on the body.  It is also hard on the caretaker.  We have made it through thus far and are looking forward to many more days of good health ahead of us.

On this past Saturday, Jim was taken to lunch by his dinner crew.  Three former colleagues of his drove up from Pueblo to take him to lunch.  These guys, all retired teachers from the school where Jim was principal, have met for dinner once a month for the past four or five years.  It was great for Jim to have them come to his new stomping grounds to take him out.  Thankfully, I thought to grab my phone and take a photo of these four fine educators gathered on our back deck. They  sometimes laugh and call themselves ROMEOS or Retired Old Men Eating Out.  One thing is for sure, when they get together, the conversation is rich with laughter and discussion of all types of subjects.  They were good medicine for Jim.

All in all, the summer has not been a bad one.  We are both healing and becoming more healthy.  We enjoy our new home and the beautiful setting in which we live.  We love the climate where we live.  In the mornings and evenings, we feel the cool mountain breezes as we walk or sit on the deck and listen to rustling aspen leaves on the trees that give us beautiful shade and privacy.  The last week has been especially cool and lovely as we have had just enough rain in our part of town to really green up the lawn and cool off the evenings.  Our a/c bills are much lower than they were in Pueblo, and so are our water bills.  We are happy for that.  We look forward to August and are not ready to see this summer come to an end.

I am doing much, much better health wise.  I am now taking pancreatic enzymes with every meal.  I no longer have pain.  The enzymes seem to be working.  I am so thankful for that.  Thankfully, I have good insurance.  I say that with true gratitude.  I can't imagine what my bills would be like these past few months of constant medical tests and doctor visits without good insurance.  The medicine I am on would have cost over $1400 without insurance.  I am only talking about my medical bills.  Jim's medical bills are not doubt astronomical also.  Again, thank heavens for our good supplemental insurance plans.  I know this is a hot topic these days and don't wish to create a political discussion with these statements.  I am just grateful that we are able to secure good medical plans for ourselves during our retirement years.  I realize that many in our age group are not able to do so.

One last word:  Thank you blogging friends, and all my other friends also, for all of your well wishes as Jim and I have faced health challenges this past few months.  Your words of support and concern have meant more than you know.  Forgive me for not reading your blogs as faithfully as I would like.  Hopefully, life will slow down soon, and we will all be back to normal.

My Bionic Man

Thanks to the advancements in modern medicine, my husband now has the spine of a 26 year old.  In other words, he no longer has vertebrae that are rubbing bone on bone and cutting off the nerves that go to his legs.  Thanks to two gifted neurosurgeons, he is no longer feeling any pain in his lower back or his legs, and he is just three days post surgery.  Tonight, as the two of us walked around the halls of the hospital, I was amazed at how well he was walking.  He did not complain of pain, and he was standing more upright than I have seen him stand in a very long time.

Surgery day began very early.  I had to have him at the hospital at 5:30 a.m.  He kept insisting he would just drive himself and I could come by later after my appointment with my doctor in Denver.  Of course, I did not allow this to happen, but I must admit I was tempted when the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m.

At 7:30, he was all prepped and ready to go into surgery, but surgery did not really begin until 8:30.  Since I had to go to Denver for a 10:00 appointment, I left as soon as he was wheeled back to go pick up a dear friend who accompanied me to Denver.  The nurse in the OR called me every hour to update me on what was happening.  I arrived back to the hospital around 12:30.  Jim was still in surgery.  In the end, the surgery lasted between five and five and a half hours.  That is a very long time to be under anesthesia, but he seemed to handle it all very well.

The first night after surgery was spent on a surgical floor in a small room because the hospital was so full, they did not have a room for him in the area where they send back patients.  It was here where he received the visitor that really brought a smile to his face: Daniel the therapy dog.  Daniel actually lives across the street from us with our neighbor Janice.  Daniel is a very special golden retriever that was rescued by his owner, and now, he spends his time serving as a therapy dog.  I nearly cried when I saw Jim stroking Daniel's ears, patting his head, and talking to him.  I know how much he must miss his dear Boston.  Therapy dogs are wonderful.  Janice, thanks for sharing Daniel with us.

Thankfully, on Friday afternoon, Jim was sent down to the floor where the nurses are very familiar with caring for back patients.  He has been doing great as far as the surgery goes.  There have been a few little wrinkles that sometimes happen post surgery as the body adjusts to shock it has gone through.  I am confident all of these wrinkles will be be smoothed out soon.  

This is the fourth major surgery I have gone though with Jim.  He has had both knees replaced, a hip replacement, and now, he had to have a spinal fusion and decompression.  He sets off all kinds of alarms when he goes through airport security.  Having gone through these past surgeries with him, I am amazed at how quickly he has gotten up and around this time.  I think the knees were the worst.  I think he would agree with me, but I'm not sure.  

This man amazes me.  Truly, when his dear friend Woe nicknamed him "Nails," he knew what he was talking about.  "Nails" he is.  He is tough as nails that is for sure.  (Click on the link to read about how he dodged the bullet when he was 95% blocked in his LAD.)

Tonight, I have Boston our dear golden retriever home with me.  He has been kenneled since Wednesday.  He is sleeping at my feet as I write.  I am comforted and feel more settled with him by my side.  I hated coming home to this house from the hospital when I knew that neither of my special guys would be here.  Boston is missing his master.  I am missing him too.  I hope he is able to come home to join us in the next day or two.  

My Man is Back

My title for this post may need some explaining.  My regular readers may be wondering where my man has been.  In fact, they may wonder where I have been since it has been over two weeks since I last posted.  So, let me fill you in on what has been happening around here.

Jim, my man, sometimes known as my main squeeze, did not actually go anywhere.  He just has not been himself for quite some time.  As some of you might recall, in December of 2011, my husband dodged a major heart attack when it was discovered that he had a 95% blockage of his LAD.  You can read about that health scare here: Nails Dodges the Big One.

After this major life event, my husband was able to bounce back with renewed energy.  He lost weight, ate a more healthy diet, exercised three or more times a week on the elliptical machine, and walked a couple of miles a day.  Just one month after this crisis with my husband's heart, I fell down our basement stairs and suffered a head injury.  This meant he became the caretaker for me.  He took care of all the household tasks and drove me everywhere I needed to go.  More than that, he supported me through a very rough time in my life as I tried to overcome a traumatic head injury, a vestibular disorder, and debilitating anxiety.  At the same time, we had a very challenging new puppy that did not respond well to training.  Nails, another nickname for my dear husband, proved how tough and determined a man he was once again during this difficult time in our lives.  At a time when he should have been recuperating, he took care of me, and trained a difficult pup while recovering from having a stent placed in his heart just a few months before.

Early this summer, just as I was finally getting better, Jim began to experience some health symptoms that were perplexing.  He was extremely tired, his energy level was very low.  He no longer had the energy to work out or walk.   He seemed to be nauseated on a constant basis.  He experienced body aches, and he became nearly unable to walk because of pain in his hip.  Not only that, but he also began to suffer from depression.  I would ask him to describe what he was feeling, and he would say, "I just feel like I have a general malaise."  At first, I feared that his heart was bothering him again, but he did not have any heart related symptoms.  Every afternoon, he and I would each go to our individual studies, sit in our easy chairs, and take long afternoon naps.  His exercise routine stopped.  He suffered a lot of pain in his hip which did not allow him to walk far.

In September, after a summer of seeing my husband's health steadily decline, we decided he needed to be checked out by his cardiologist just to see if we could get some answers to solve the mystery as to why he was suffering from this strange malaise.   It was an observant LPN at the cardiologist office that discovered that the calcium levels in his blood were very high.  We were referred back to  our internist.  She seemed to have an idea about what could be going on with him and sent him to the hospital for additional testing that included scans of his neck.  After all the testing was done, we were told that he had hyperparathyroidism.  My husband was then referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  Thankfully, we knew a great ENT, one we trusted and liked.  He reassured us that surgery would most likely solve his problems.

There is a mnemonic that our endocrinologist gave us to describe the hypercalcaemia that comes about because of hyperparathyroidism.  It goes like this:   Stones, bones, groans, thrones, and psychiatric overtones.  When one has hyperparathyroidism, there is a high level of calcium in the blood that causes these symptoms:
  • Stones (renal or biliary)
  • Bones (bone pain)
  • Groans (abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting)
  • Thrones (sit on throne - polyuria)
  • Psychiatric overtones (Depression 30-40%, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, insomnia, coma)* 

Needless to say, none of these symptoms are fun.  That is why we wanted to hurry up and have surgery to remove the offending parathyroid.  There was just one problem, Jim was on Plavix.  He had to be cleared by his cardiologist and taken off of Plavix before he could have surgery.  So, back to the cardiologist we went.  He said that he could not clear him because he was sticking with protocol and keeping him on the blood thinner at least until the one year date after the stent was placed in his heart.  One cannot argue with the wisdom of this decision even though it seemed that the hyperparathyroidism was filling my husband's daily life with other health challenges that made it so difficult for him.

Early in the morning of the Monday after Thanksgiving, I noticed my husband seemed to have a drooping mouth when I looked at him for the first time that day.  Stunned by this, I had him go through the FAST test.  He could smile, he could raise his arms, his speech was normal, but I decided that I was not convinced that he was not having an incident.  I had him take his blood pressure. It was incredibly high.  Wasting no time, I insisted he let me drive him to the hospital.

At the hospital, after getting an EKG, and after not performing too well on an initial neurological exam, he was admitted to the hospital where he spent two days being evaluated for stroke or TIA.  A stroke was ruled out, but it was determined, as it usually is with TIA, that the results were inconclusive as to whether or not he suffered a TIA.  He was told he was extremely at risk for stroke, and he was watched very carefully for those two days in the hospital.  Needless to say, that was a very scary time.

On December 6, 2012, exactly one year after the heart incident, Jim was able to go off Plavix.  We contemplated having his surgery done on December 20th.  He even scheduled it for that date.  Then, we decided we did not need to have the additional stress that surgery brings just days before Christmas. I'm glad we made this decision, even though Jim continued to not feel well and suffered from high blood pressure and other symptoms.

Finally, last Thursday, January 17, Jim had surgery to remove at least one of the parathyroids that had tumors.  It was unclear whether or not he had tumors on more than one because the scan clearly showed one and hinted at another.  He came through surgery with flying colors.

The next day, it seemed like I had my man back.  He was downstairs at his desk working and talking with friends on the phone with his old personality and sense of humor back in place.  He wanted to get out and go.  We went shopping.  He had a new bounce in his step.

The next day, he was tired from surgery, and he most likely overdid a bit the day before.  Everyday has shown improvement.  Today, he went in and had an epidural/steroid shot in his hip to alleviate the pain in his hip from spinal stenosis.  That procedure also went extremely well.

Despite this bout with bad health and pain, that is hopefully behind him, I have continued to be amazed by this dear man I had the good fortune to marry.  Each day, he has spent time with his beloved dog Boston. Each day, he cares for this dog by feeding him, walking him, continuing to train him, and spending quality time with him just sitting on the back deck admiring the mountain range behind us.   Boston is his good buddy and loyal companion.

Each evening, you will find my dearly beloved sitting in front of the fireplace reading.  He loves  reading those thrillers.  He never fails to remark how much he love our new home and how happy he is that we made this move.

He wants to get back to the gym and start tearing up the elliptical machine again.  He wants to get back to walking every day.  He has started doing Pilates on the reformer.  Yes, my man is back!  I am so grateful.

Nails Dodges The Big One

My husband has a nickname.  He is sometimes called "nails" as in "tough as nails" by one of his closest friends.  I also call him Nails at times because he is that: tough.  His toughness was something that was hard won on his daily walks home from junior high.  He lived in a tough neighborhood.  He learned to fight his way home.  And, the way he tells it, there were some pretty tough kids in that 'hood.  (There still are tough kids in the neighborhood!)

In high school, he was one tough football player.  He was known as a hard hitter.  Once, a few years back, as we walked into a local restaurant, I heard a voice coming from the bar, "Oh my God, there's Jim Wessely.  He's the toughest football player to ever come out of East High School.  If he hit you, you didn't get back up."

In his running days, his best friend and running partner started always calling him "Nails."  To this day, he calls and asks for "Nails down the line."

Yesterday, Nails dodged one of the biggest opponents he's ever come up against.  My dear husband, Nails to some, went into the hospital after not feeling well for several weeks.  Being a tough guy, or perhaps because he was practicing denial, or maybe, he didn't want to worry me, he had ignored, or failed to mention, that he was having pressure in his left chest and left arm.

For several weeks my husband had complained about not feeling well. He had no energy. He took naps during the day. He couldn't finish walks. He couldn't finish exercise routines. He was nauseated. I would ask the standard questions, "Do you have chest pain?" "Are you clammy?" I would check his blood pressure. It was good. His pulse was good. His blood sugar levels were good.

As I said before, there was only one thing he wasn't telling me. He had pressure, subtle, but pressure all the same, in his left chest and left arm. I didn't have that critical piece of information. He didn't think it was important information. He thought the symptoms would go away.

Monday morning, after some indecision due to not feeling on top of his game, he decided to go with me to the YMCA to workout.  I went off Pilates class. He went to the exercise room to do his usual one hour workout on the elliptical.  He's a maniac on that machine.  Really, others comment on how hard he 'runs' on the elliptical for at least an hour three times a week.

On Monday, when I finished my class, my husband was not working out on the weight machines as usual. He generally finishes his elliptical workout by working on the weight machines.  In fact, I couldn't find him.  Finally, I found him sitting in the lobby.

His coloring was gray. He looked worried. Finally, he told me about the persistent pressure he had been experiencing. He had run into trouble when he tried to exercise. He had no energy. He had shortness of breath. His pressure was worse. Thankfully, he stopped exercising and patiently waited for me to finish my workout class.  (Don't ask me why he didn't come and get me.)

His gig was up with me.  I allowed no protests coming from him to stop me from driving him to the hospital.  At the emergency room, he was put through the typical drill.  He assured me we would be going home in just a few hours.  As it turned out, he was wrong.  Blood work results indicated something was going on with his heart.  He was admitted to the hospital.

The next day, yesterday, December 6, he had a heart catheterization to see what was going on.  The cardiologist found that my husband's left anterior descending artery was 95% blocked.  The artery was opened up, and a stint was put in place.  That same artery was blocked at 40% back in 2006 when he had gone in for a heart catheterization following an episode with chest pain.

Some of you may have heard of the LAD artery before.  It is sometimes called "the widow maker."  If this artery is suddenly and completed occluded at 100%, it causes a massive heart attack.  It was this type of event that killed Tim Russert.

My husband's prognosis is good.  He is already home.  We will go out tonight with our monthly dinner with high school friends.  (Doctor approved.)  He is in good spirits.  He looks good.  He starts exercise again next week.

We will be drastically changing our diet.  We will make sure that his cholesterol stays down.  He is on some new drugs.

He walked out of the hospital alive.

I shudder to think about what could have happened, if he had attempted to go "hard as nails" on the elliptical on Monday.  I shudder to think what could have happened as he walked the dog, climbed the stairs, took a shower, or drove across town.

I think there is a lesson here:  Listen to your body.  If you have pressure, or any heart symptoms, get them checked out.  Tell your spouse, friend, significant other, or whomever you know well, the full story when you aren't quite on top of your game.  Don't think that your symptoms will just go away.  Get your symptoms checked out.

Thankfully, we had a good outcome.  Jim did not suffer a heart attack.  He got the medical intervention he needed before things would have been so much harder to reverse, or even non-reverable.

He is tough, tough as nails, but I'm grateful he didn't have to prove his toughness after a heart attack.

We have been blessed, greatly blessed.  God has shown us much mercy and grace.  

*source for heart image: thesisterproject.com

Happy Birthday to My Wonderful Husband

He is a prince of a man.
I know of few who are so kind.
I was blessed to meet him when I was just sixteen.
He is loved, admired, and respected by many.
He is the much loved father and step-father to eight children.
Seventeen children call him Grandpa.
Many in the city respectfully call him Mr. Wessely.
He was a teacher, counselor, and principal to thousands.

My German Prince
Heidleberg Castle, Heidleberg, Germany
The place where his parents married.

I am the woman who is greatly blessed to be his wife.

We've had a wonderful life together.

I am blessed to have him as my companion.
I wrote this poem for him a few years back as anniversary gift.

Masked Lover
Masked lover
Night breathing through a machine - 
Your lifeline.
The sound:  smooth, quiet, regular,
providing a white noise of sorts.
You, my masked lover, are my lifeline - 
solid, strong, masculine, unmovable.
Winter warmth.
Trouble comforter.
Rock of my daily experience.
Anchor for my heart and life.
All these words cannot express
The comfort,
The strength,
The safety,
The provision,
The stability,
That I thank God for
When I embrace 
my lifeline, 
at night.

Happy Birthday, Dear.

Here's to many, many more!