A Saturday in November

I’ve spent a lazy Saturday morning sitting around reading with my husband at my side.  I observe how lazy we are being.  He says, “Speak for yourself.  I’m enjoying not having anything to do.”  

Whispering, so the dog won’t hear, I say, “Let’s get a walk in this morning.”  At 11:00, I finish a lazy woman’s breakfast of granola and yogurt, finish off my now cold coffee, think I better get going if I’m to get a walk in, glance out of the window and say, “It looks blustery out there.  I don’t think I want to walk in this.”  A few minutes later, I look up again from what I am reading and observe there is moisture accompanying the wind.  My husband checks his weather app and says there is 20% chance of rain today.  A few minutes later, I say, “That is thick rain coming down.”  

Having decided we would not go for a walk, the man has gone to a part of the house where there are no windows.  I called down to him that the rain was now coming in fluffy flakes.  Now, just thirty minutes later, no one could characterize what is falling from the sky as rain.  Thick, fluffy snowflakes are coating the ground, the rooftops, and the streets with enough snow to create the perfect kind of day for staying inside and reading all day long.

View from my window on a snowy morning:  doe in the snow

This storm, (is it a storm?) was completely unexpected.  We have plans.  We are to travel out of town tonight to attend an alumni dinner at the school where my husband served as principal for many years.  I don’t know if we will make the trip or not.  

It is the third day of November.  The year is coming to an end.  This is the month where at the end of the month we have a day where we express our thanksgiving for those things in our lives that are blessings.  November is a perfect month for reflection upon all the blessings in our lives.  

The first Saturday in November of 2018, I sit down and write down about just some of the activities, observations, challenges that have filled the past week.  Each gives me cause to express great gratitude.  
  • Health concerns, sickness, and health create reasons to have gratitude for health coverage.  
It has been a week that brought some sickness into my life and into Jim’s. It has been a week of challenges because we both live in aging bodies that don’t seem to function like they did in their prime.  During weeks like this, I am grateful for good doctors whom care for both of us, and that we have access to such doctors.  I am grateful for good health care coverage.  Yes, such good coverage comes at a great price, but the price far outweighs not having it.  I think of those in fear of losing coverage, or of those, like Jim and me, whom have pre-existing conditions which might not be covered if there are drastic changes made to our healthcare system.  These thoughts motivate me all the more to get out and vote.

  • During the second week of November, during early voting, I am able to cast a vote in the mid-term elections in the United States of America. 
At the beginning of the week, my husband and I took out our ballots and read through each proposition and amendment on the ballot.  We discussed what we thought of each, read some of the pros and cons on each issue, and then marked our ballots.  We discussed the candidates and cast our votes for the ones we wished to see in office.  Voting is a sacred privilege and not one I have ever taken lightly.  This year more than ever, I am grateful I can vote in a free democratic society.  I am deeply concerned about the future of my country.  I stay informed.  I read about the issues of the day. I don’t just read news source stories on the topics of the day, I read opinion writers on both sides of the issues.  I weigh the opinions of others against what I know about my own vast reading of history over the years.  I synthesize what I hear from talking heads with what I’ve read from voices from the past.   I analyze what I hear and read.  I rarely take much of anything that I see or hear at face value.  I’ve been like that my entire life.  I am grateful that I was taught to be a critical thinker and that I practice critical thinking when it comes to making up my own mind about the times in which we live.  

  • I am a member of a wonderful church and during the past week, I was able to worship freely the God I serve.  
Sunday morning, chills ran through me as I sang with others in my congregation the great hymn of the Church A Mighty Fortress is Our God.  Bagpipes were playing, as was a brass band, as we stood as a body sing and to remember our roots in the Reformation on Reformation Sunday.  Again, I am reminded how very blessed I am to have been able to worship freely in this great land.  Again, I am reminded that others have been gunned down and lost their lives in the great land while they worshiped in a sacred place.  As I rejoiced in my worship, I did so with a broken heart over what had happened in Pittsburg the day before.  I pray anew that I will sow seeds of peace and continue to seek reconciliation in this time of such great division in our country. 

  • On Wednesday, I had lunch with my prayer warrior moms.  
One of the greatest blessing of my life over the past four or five years has been to meet every two weeks with an amazing group of women to pray for our loved ones.  My life has been changed by meeting with these women and praying with them.  It has been changed in ways I could never have believed when I first came into their midst.  Our prayers and our conversations are confidential.  The transparency of their hearts has helped to heal my own heart as we have prayed for each other.  This week at time other than the time we set aside to pray and joined each for lunch in the love home of one our fellow praying moms.  We talked and shared our stories about who we were we before we were moms.  We talked about our professional lives.  We shared life stories.   I learned new stories about these amazing women that I never knew.  These women are my heroes and my dearest prayer companions.

  • On Thursday, I gathered with women in my Bible study to study The Letter of Paul to the Philippians.  
During the study, I became ill and had to leave the study.  Women gathered around me and prayed for me and ministered to me.  One, a nurse, drove me home and continued to give me kindness and words of encouragement and support.  I am so very grateful for the many women in my church whom have been like sisters to me and shown me so much love and support.  The fellowship we share is such a special bond.

  • On Friday, I was able to serve at a memorial service at my church.  
These past few years, I have been blessed to serve on a committee that provides a reception after every memorial service or funeral at our church.  These dear women on this committee are also some of the dearest women I know.  We make the coffee, arrange the cookies on platters, visit with those attending the services, and try to provide comfort for the bereaved during a time that is so difficult.  
Next week, will be so difficult as we will be serving during the service of one our own, a dearly beloved member of our committee whom has gone from our midst to her home in heaven.  She was such a spark of delight and joy in every setting.  
As I help clean-up after the reception yesterday, as we were folding table cloths and putting away serving dishes, I remembered that the last time this dear departed one had served by my side, which was only a few months ago, she and I discovered we had a problem after the service because one of the cloths on the memorial table had been ruined by melted wax.  This dear one knew just what to do.  She began working on the wax with ice, and then she took the cloth home to get the rest of the wax out with a hot iron applied to layers of cloth over and under the ruined cloth.  It was returned look better than brand new.
I am so grateful for all the women in my life whom I have met over the years. My life is so very rich in friendship and in fellowship.

The week has been a full one.  It has truly provided so many reasons to feel gratitude.  

Now, the sun is out.  The sky has large patches of blue.  The snow is melting.  We are going for a walk.  I think we will be able to attend our out of town dinner meeting after all.  

I’m back from my walk.  This walk gives me another reason to rejoice in thanksgiving.
My hubby and Boston lead the way on our walk.
As I observe the quickly melting snow, Jim comments on how brisk and refreshing the air feels.  
Boston and I pose for our photo on this beautiful Saturday in November.

I am so grateful for where I live.  The beauty of this place continues to fill my heart with such joy.  I love living in the foothills of the mountains again.

Living among the creatures is a mixed blessing.  This big boy was watching me go for my walk as he sat sunning himself in my neighbors front yard.  

His harem was nearby.  

How was your was your week?  What did you do this Saturday?  Are any of you taking time to record your gratitudes this month?


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.