The Right

September 27, 2016

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I just got done teaching a little unit on the Star-Spangled Banner with all my students. We read a storybook about the creation of the song and go over the actual meaning of the lyrics. My students know a sign language routine to go along with the lyrics. Seriously guys, there is nothing cuter than first graders miming sign and singing about the “Donzerly Light” like Ramona Quimby. We also model what to do when it is performed at sporting events. I teach the kids that 1. We stand quietly, hands over hearts. 2. If there is no singer, we sing along if we want. They are ten years old or younger; that’s all they need to know.

HOWEVER… I have not found other things quite so cute lately:

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Sorry. No. Rant warning!

They’re  exercising their right to protest in a (very!) peaceful way. They’re doing nothing to hurt you or anyone else. You don’t have to agree with it. They don’t have to agree with you. I guess it sucks if they’re messing with your image of a perfect Sunday afternoon game. These players taking a knee to draw attention to an issue they care about is hardly disrespectful to a country that was populated partially by Europeans searching for religious freedom and that early on established the ideal of free speech. It’s kind of our game, here.

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WE DESTROYED SOME VERY EXPENSIVE TEA IN THE BOSTON HARBOR, GUYS.

We watched my kid’s soccer team take a knee last weekend when a player on the other team was hurt. 20 kids instantly knew to drop to the ground in respect until the boy was up and walking. Kneeling before royalty is traditional.  Kneeling in prayer is a common practice. Kneeling is a heck of a lot more respectful than some other methods of protest.

If you say these guys have “insulted the people who gave them the right”, you are saying that they don’t or shouldn’t have the right in the first place. You really want to go there? Stripping away constitutional rights?

Honestly, the guys on the left look a lot more reverent and thoughtful to me anyway.

It was not military servicemen (we have to assume that they’re talking about “our troops” here, naturally) who gave these players this right, by the way. The fledgling American congress – guess who knows all about this stuff now that she’s a bit obsessed with “Hamilton”?  – passed the first amendment to the constitution in 1791 as part of a collection of legislature called the Bill of Rights.  They gave these guys the right.

Oh wait. These guys are black.

So no, they didn’t. Sorry.

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I’m baaaaaaack.

September 25, 2016

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…hi.

You’re looking well. Oh, me too? Thanks. After all that surgery crap I kind of made the gym a priority in the summer. I got there 3 times a week, max. But progress is progress. Seriously, I know, it’s been forever! Or, it’s been since last February.

Yep…so… this is awkward. I haven’t felt like making the time to write in a long time.

Why?

My excuses:

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Writing online and hoping that you’ve communicated effectively with someone is nicely humbling and excitingly uncomfortable. But, like those G. D. planks at the gym, it’s good for you. I hope. For what are we practicing planks, exactly? Is somebody going to need me to stand in for a short, lumpy table at some point?

Well, this is my wussy, non-committal commitment to getting back in the (blog) saddle again.

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Let’s say we’ll shoot for weekly posts and then laugh about that because we all know what “reality” is.

Hmmm, what should we talk about first? Something nice and light?

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Nope. Gimme a few and I’ll BRB.
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Heart Failure and Success

February 14, 2016

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January 5th I had a pretty simple surgery to have a Sub-Q ICD implanted. I’m a heart failure patient, and that means I’m at a higher risk for life-threatening arrhythmia, having my heart stop, dropping dead, etc, blah blah blah. (Back story here.) An ICD is a wire-and-battery-pack device that detects heart problems and does the “CLEAR!” shocky thing for you, automatically. This was like a heart safety net. I was able to get the latest variety of ICD, which is about the size of a deck of cards and installed on your side. Sideboob, basically. They sent me home the next day with bandages and Percocet. The recovery week I took off wasn’t my favorite vacation of the year (Ow!), but if you will believe that myth about redheads feeling pain more acutely than others, I’ll use that as my excuse. A couple weeks later I was still sore and still not really healed up, but back to life and doing all right.

And then, I wasn’t. About a month post-op I got a fever, and had lots of other incision-related fun I won’t go into for fear that I’ll disgust bore you. I ended up in an urgent care center, then my surgeon’s office a few days later for more stitches. Then, they told me to go back to Penn Presby hospital by way of the emergency room. *Do not read next sentence if squeamish* I could suddenly SEE the device, through the scar that wasn’t healing, in my side. Note: Suburban New Jersey emergency rooms have spoiled me. Anybody who whines about the conditions or wait time there should cross the bridge and try a city ER. Whoa.

I spent about eight hours in the ER – you have to remind yourself that you don’t want to be the one the doctors want to see quickly. I was just chilling out, watching TV, and not being allowed to eat or drink, because more surgery seemed imminent. X-rays and doctor talks occurred, and we (they) decided that the ICD unit, but not the attached wire that had also been implanted over my heart to deliver shocks, had to come out. It was out of position, pushing outward on the incision, and everything was *shudder* infected. Ew. It was being a little B, basically.  It could possibly be re-implanted on the other side of my body, or taken out entirely and a new one implanted later, after healing. Later? Wait, wasn’t this business was supposed to have been simple and over a month ago? Now, I am usually my nurse’s favorite patient and my doctor’s easy case. But I was HANGRY tired, and weary of this shit ordeal, so… I got a little pushy with the very sweet ER doctor:

“Before any more surgery, I want another test of my heart function. I know I didn’t improve from April to September, and I know it’s unlikely I’ve improved since then. But I feel like I’m doing better.” i. e., “Please let’s not do another implant surgery and risk all this happening again if the damn thing doesn’t need to be in there, buddy.” He said sure, they hadn’t planned to do this, but it was a non-invasive test. Checking my ejection fraction (heart pumping function) again “might be prudent”.

Well, guess what?

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Fast forward through a night of ‘sleep’, to what was supposed to be surgery day. I’d been fasting all day and was going to start munching on drywall like Cookie Monster soon. I got the heart function test that morning.  After 6pm my eletrophysiologist finally got out of his long day of surgeries. He had good news, and bad news, he said. He wasn’t able to fit me in for surgery today after all. (Bad news.) However, I could now order dinner. (Good news.) But, *drumroll*… My new ejection fraction? A much better 45%! (And now I’m not even mad!!) I’m not out of the woods, but mostly out of the danger zone, as he put it. What would be done in surgery was ultimately my choice, but no ICD was clinically needed anymore. *HAPPY DANCE*

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Feb. 2015: 15-20% April 2015: 35% Sept. 2015: 35% Feb. 2016: 45% WOOOOOOOOOHOOOOO!

So, early morning surgery commenced the next day, and I was back in time to order lunch. Not a food person at ALL, am I? Instead of one nice-sized cut I got two, because they took the entire system out, wire and all. It’s not that I don’t care that I again have incisions that are slow to heal and currently make it hard for me to do fun stuff like stand up quickly or drive. Or wear a real bra.  I DO care – it smarts.  But it’s temporary! And after a year of having to think of myself as in the danger zone, being out feels SO good. It’s not over, I may (it’s likely) be on these meds most of my life, but I have succeeded in getting better. I’ve done several things to make that happen – details are a post for another time – and they’re working. The relief! I’ll take the stupid scars, thankyouverymuch.

This whole 4-week story could easily be viewed as a list of complaint questions: Why didn’t the ICD stay in place? Because interior stitches didn’t hold, because…I’m weird? Why didn’t the incision heal properly? See previous answer. Why didn’t one of my Penn doctors double check that I needed the device closer to the time it was implanted, to avoid this whole thing? Statistically, if somebody’s EF is going to improve, it usually does so in the first 3 months of medication, and we were way past that. Why did it take my own suggestion to repeat the test in the hospital before a second surgery? See previous answer, and also, because…yeah, anyway, WTH, guys? Give a girl a chance! 

Honestly, the answer in general is: Because I am not normal.  But we knew that already.

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Me and the boy, working from “home”, waiting around for “go time”.

But here’s something I find very cool/significant/spooky:

At my doctor’s suggestion I bought myself a nice medic alert bracelet from Lauren’s Hope after the first ICD surgery. It had 4 short lines of text to include name, conditions, allergies, emergency contact info, and direct someone to my wallet info card. I tweaked the inscription to fit everything just right, or so I thought. But when the bracelet came I was annoyed to find that I hadn’t actually written on there that I, in fact, had an implanted defibrillator. Duh, that was half the point. I was going to re-order the ID tag soon to include that, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

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At least some nice wrist bling should come out of all this.

If had I ordered the bracelet correctly a month ago, today it would have been wrong. Now, it’s totally accurate. Is that a little weird, or what?

By the way, I am now one of Penn’s “bad” statistics; an infection, repeated hospitalization, and failed implant after one of their procedures. Sorry guys. I really do think very highly of you. Also, excellent chicken fingers in the cafe. In the operating room, right before they gave me the happy juice, one of the surgeons teased that I was ruining their numbers.

I joked back, “What are you gonna do, cut me?”

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A Year Ago: Heart Vs. Brain

February 2, 2016

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A year ago:

I was out of breath from walking down the hall. I thought I was just pathetically out of shape.

I had a lot of trouble getting a good night’s rest. I thought that was “life”.

My stomach felt bloated and my jeans were fitting uncomfortably. I thought I was gaining weight.

I had no appetite. This of all things should have tipped me off but I thought, “Good, cause my jeans are fitting uncomfortably.”

I was “grumpy”, didn’t feel like myself at all, and didn’t take as much joy from my nice little life. I thought I was overwhelmed from work and doing the busy mom thing.  

I was exhausted, I couldn’t lay flat without feeling like I couldn’t breathe, I coughed all the time, and I felt like I couldn’t take in a good breath. I thought I’d caught a bronchitis or something, and it would run its course.

I remember having the distinct feeling that I was kind of sucking at life, but I bet I was giving folks a decent impression of being fine.

A year ago, today:

I decided to declare defeat (that’s how I looked at it) and went to a clinic after school. I was tachycardic, had an ejection fraction of 15-20% (it should be 55+), an enlarged heart, and I had some major congestive heart failure. I spent four days in the hospital and found out that I had a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy that, left untreated, had a “very poor” five-year prognosis (Read: If we don’t fix this, you’re not likely to make it five more years.)

Yes, holy sh*t, indeed. I wrote that clinic nurse a heck of a nice Thank You later on.

I can’t believe it’s been a year already. This seems crazy, but I actually think, “Wow, what a good year.” With a really good prognosis today, this is not a big thing. Despite not losing weight because HELLO, stupid metabolism-slowing medications – I’m living a significantly healthier lifestyle. It does still involve eating junk and Netflix. It also involves counting sodium, going to the gym, and getting a defibrillator implanted last month. I’ll get into changes I’ve/we’ve made in a future post, but I gotta tell ya, this “heart failure patient/survivor” thing, it doesn’t have to be awful. I do still tease Hubby that at least he can get a young hot blonde 2nd wife when I kick it. He does not find that funny.

I love this comic and I'm linking to him below and hopefully I won't get in too much trouble for using his image and spreading this awesomeness around the interwebs. Go buy comic stuff from theawkwardyeti.com, ok? Cool.
I love this comic and I’m linking to him below and hopefully I won’t get in too much trouble for using his image and spreading this awesomeness around the interwebs. Go buy comic stuff from theawkwardyeti.com, ok? Because how perfect is this? How lucky am I to get to think that my brain is enjoying a cup of coffee and my heart is skipping around, happy to be doing so much better?

Readers, please go to the doctor when you don’t feel right. Make the time. Don’t be afraid of them thinking you’re a hypochondriac or a whiner. People love you, you are important, and you just never know.  Feel free to tell them about your friend Meg who just thought she had a touch of bronchitis.

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Parenting, Defined

January 24, 2016

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Baby:  1. Infant. 2. Youngest child. Note: May be defined as a 50 pound, almost 6 year-old who wears a size 7-8.

Bedtime:  The primary time of day a child experiences bodily ailments that would prevent her from doing fun stuff at any other time.

Coffee:  Beverage, usually served hot, that functions as the exclusive reason for getting out of bed. See also: Socially-Acceptable Dependency.

Crap:  Formerly pronounced “Carp” for children’s sake, a word now deemed appropriate to say in front of childrenbut forbidden to be repeated by them. See related: Hypocrisy.

Friend:  1. For a child, anyone who will talk to you and share their toys. 2. For a parent, anyone who will talk to you and share their wine.

Kid Plaque:  The small toys, socks, broken crayons, and miscellaneous pieces of block sets that gather around the base boards of the room. See also: Vacuum Bait.

Pinterest:  Website used to organize, or “pin”,  resources and ideas for various topics that will actually never be utilized because, when seeking out said topic, one will inevitably find something new to pin instead. See also: Adult ADD

Phone:  What a parent is usually staring at while saying, “No, you cannot watch another episode, you’ve had enough screen time today.”

Prenatal:  1. Before birth. 2. The only time of life when one knows everything about correctly birthing and raising children.

Time Out:  1. A behavior management tactic, used to remove a child from a situation and allow her to reflect on her actions. 2. A parent survival tactic, used to remove a child from one’s sight so as not to reflect on how easy adopting a few rescue dogs would have been instead.

Truck Stop Restroom:  The image that must come to mind when surveying a bathroom in order for it to need cleaning.

Salad:  Healthy food item that is packed for adult lunch and abandoned for tater tots and a diet coke.

Vacuum:  1. A dog’s worst nightmare. 2.  Action taken because company is coming over. 3. Action taken because there are more crumbs and dirt stuck to your bare feet than is comfortable/permissible by DYFS.

This glossary represents my own experience only, and is by no means complete. Please add your own term & definitions in the comments, to be added to the glossary and credited to you. Thanks for reading!

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Now Hear This: Misfit Country

December 20, 2015

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Are you a total sucker for inspirational songs? It’s ok, you can admit it later.

I’m also an irrational disliker  of modern country music. I’ve tried, I swear. Please comment with a country song that will change my mind. I dare you. 

Through the wonders of my Discover Weekly list on Spotify, I’ve recently played to death enjoyed three psudo-country songs that share a beautiful common thread: Not fitting in. Whether they were judged and found wanting, or are just not measuring up to societal standards, these are musical offerings staring folks who don’t give a rip if you like them or not. And they’re country-ish at the least. BOOM. Horizons expanded.

Give a listen!

Elle King’s “America’s Sweetheart”

This is the 7th track off Elle’s Feb. 2015 album Love Stuff. Despite a handful of kind of cliched phrases in the verse, this is raucous anthem for girls who don’t feel the need to behave like perfect ladies. I also dig this because I, too, amfunny when I’m drunk (I think), and, unrelated, just aquired a stupid tiny chip in my front tooth. You just want to do a shot of whiskey and sing along with Elle here.

I also adore “Ex’s and Oh’s” from this album. Good stuff, Love Stuff.

Kacey Musgraves “Cup of Tea”

This is just a sweet little song that coos at you not to fear the blotches on your permanent record. The variety of sins and shortcomings listed are relateable but and entertaining. She reminds us that “We’ve all got the right to be wrong.” in a way that grants anyone permission to have hope, even if they’ve screwed up. Hey, I’ve screwed up! Sweet! “You can’t be be everybody’s up of tea”. Musgraves shakes off any judgement at the her final lyric, asking “Why would you wanna be?”

Her video for her song “Biscuits” is freakin’ infections and involves a puppet, in case you were wondering.

Josh Ritter’s “Getting Ready to Get Down”

This catchy song addresses some narrow-minded Christians forgetting that they know no more than anyone else, failing to leave the judging to God, and screwing with young people’s heads. It’s a little bit in the vein of Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”. The girl to whom Josh is singing is sent away to bible college because she’s not fitting in with her town’s conservative ideals. Instead of coming around to their ways, she ends up absorbing all the acceptance and love messages in the Good Book, and none of the “Thou Shalt Not”s. Although I don’t presume to know Ritter’s feelings on certain major social issues of today, his lyric “Give your love freely to whomever that you please” hints at it nicely.

Plus, there is an official LINE DANCE to this song, people.

As you get quickly older and slowly wiser, you learn that whether some people like you has very little do with YOU. Thankfully there are pleasant songs like these to remind us. For instance, I have clearly judged country music unfairly. I’m sorry. There was all that association with confederate flags on the back of pick-up trucks.  However, Hubby has already requested I put in earbuds while working on this post.

Convince me that it’s not all honky-tonk bars and cowboy boots. What is your favorite “country” song?

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The Latest Gadget

December 13, 2015

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You know that friend  who always has to have the lastest iPhone? I am not that person. I have a second-hand Moto X. It will get used until it stops being useful. But I drop phones a lot. In contrast to my curmudgeon phone situation, I was encouraged to find that I’m receiving the very latest in implantable defibrillator technology, soon. I am getting the iPhone 6s+ of ICDs. The plus isn’t a thing, is it? You know what I mean. It’s all new and stuff.

If you have no idea why I’m getting a compact version of the A. E. D. shocky things they have in public buildings put inside my body, read these:

What the Hell is This Crap: Discovering Your Heart Is a Wuss

S%@# My Students Say About Cardiomyopathy

Wow I Must Be LUCKY: Sort of Failing Heart Tests

There were a bunch of tests I had, to qualify for this newfangled device – and I passed them! And I didn’t even study! I wish that my own awesomeness had to do with this, but it has more to do with luck and something called T-waves. I learned that I don’t need a pacemaker at this time.

 

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I get the one on the right, the S-ICD. Note its tininess and lack of full-frontal scarring.

This one is off to the side, can use cell phone technology to monitor 24/7 if need be, and doesn’t actually go into the heart. This last perk eliminates the risk of infection or complications of having the “old” kind, that used a wire that as placed directly inside the heart. Boston Scientific makes it, and they are very proud to brag explain about it here on their website. There is even a slick video. This is pretty cool. The downside?

They have to stop your heart for a minute during the implant procedure, and let the ICD shock you “back to life”.

You know, just to make sure it works. I am not particularly “ok” with this. But there are worse things, right?

So I’m getting this lovely thing installed on January 5th. It’s an overnight or so in the hospital, bedrest for a couple days, and restrictions on movement and carrying stuff with my arm for a month. No horn playing. Boo. But, I will get to extend my Christmas break by going back in for one day to put ducks in a row, then being out the rest of the week.

“Yay…” for killing sick days. Sincere “YAY!” for getting in a permanent state of “safer” with this heart nonsense.

Also, YAY for Netflix. Cause there will be much Netflixing.

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The secret to a happy life is finding the good in everything. In this case, the good is my remote control.

So, that’s the update. Please tell me what I should binge watch that week, after I get my new gadget, in the comments. And wish me luck. While grateful to get this done, I’m not exactly un-nervous.

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War on Thanksgiving?

November 24, 2015

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We have RULES in this family, dammit. There are certain expectations for all of us. We must uphold our values, no matter how societal pressures influence us. These restrictions are hard and fast and non-negotiable.

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I am exaggerating. A little. But a certain sisterly person of mine…she better watch.

You can do whatever you like in your own house, of course. And if I don’t like a store’s policy of putting out Christmas decor or playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, I don’t need to shop there. Oh wait, it’s Target and Walmart mostly, so yes, I do. But anyway. If it makes people happy, who am I to want them to delay their happiness?

However, I want to get up on my non-tinseled soapbox and explain why there is no Christmas music or decorations in my house before the turkey has had his due.

  • Because I love Christmas. I love it so very much, and I don’t want it to lose its meaning or specialness by stretching it out earlier and thinner.
  • I have an almost spiritual relationship with Christmas music (said the corniest dork in the world) and I don’t want to hate it because I hear it too much. Please. Occupational hazard: We music teachers start our Christmas concert rehearsals in September. Ugh.
  • It’s not “the most wonderful time of the year” if it’s like 1/4 of the calendar.
  • The pushing-it-earlier thing really seems to be mostly about consumerism. You can see this in the big controversy of whether stores should be open for Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving. I vote “no”, but with gratitude for anyone who is there for me to buy Tums or cooking supplies I forgot to get the day before. Love you. Hope you get off early. 
  • The giving part of Christmas isn’t emphasized in the earliness much, it seems. I’ve seen lots of ads for flat screens and toys, but not one Salvation Army bell ringer person yet. We have taken gift suggestions off the giving tree at work, though.
  • Remember the “War on Christmas”? I also embrace it as a cultural holiday that doesn’t need to have anything to do with religion, if you want to tar and feather me for that while we’re here. Shouldn’t we be outraged about a lack of (Christian, or whatever) gratitude?

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  • My BIG (hippie, buzz-kill, left-wing, Scrooge) reason: This is very “Ugly American” to me. We are sweeping under the rug the holiday in which we celebrate the cooperation with and gratitude towards the native people who made it possible for European settlers to, oh, I don’t know, not DIE, and the only holiday for pausing to recognize that we are SO. DAMN. LUCKY to be alive and well. We should push for more GIVING in the “Thanksgiving”, too. I’m working on that in my own home this year, slowly but surely, I swear.

All of that is some important S#*T!  That is not Christmas Part 1!! I go on little rants about this to my own children and they stare blankly and think I’m weird. 

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In your own home, you should do what you want. I will roll my eyes when I drive by your tree-filled window, and you can roll your eyes at this post. Whatevs. Nobody is over here telling me when to do stuff. Except the smoke alarms. The fire department is pretty keen on us checking those every time we celebrate Daylight Savings. 

Christmas is awesome. There are traditions and parties and special moments that are like yearly spiritual renewing in our busy lives. It’s a connection to our childhood and a stepping stone into the future as we build traditions with our kids that they will remember just as fondly.

But we owe it to the universe to emphasize the importance of truly counting our blessings first. That’s all.

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