A Year Ago: Heart Vs. Brain

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.

Parenting, Defined

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!

Now Hear This: Misfit Country

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?

The Latest Gadget

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.


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.

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.

War on Thanksgiving?

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.

thanksgiving2 (1)
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?


  • 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. 


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.


Let them eat candy!

Halloween is over!

Before we settle into the debate about when it’s acceptable to listen to Christmas music (Thanksgiving evening. Period.), we should discuss what to do with all that candy. Is this even a question? Eat it. Oh, you mean for the KIDS? Some parents allow their kids only “a couple” of pieces Halloween night and then ration 1-or-2-a-day for a month or two afterward. And snack on it themselves. Yes, we’re on to you. Some parents figure it’s a holiday, and let the kids have the bucket for the night or day afterwards, and most of the sugar-laden junk is gone in a day or so. After Mommy and Daddy have dipped in to take their “parent tax”. Yes, we’re on to you, too. 

Hubby and I are in the latter camp. Actually we’re in BOTH camps, as far as eating their candy goes. When we get home from Trick-or-Treating, everybody’s usually tired and just about ready to crash into bed. We let the girls have freedom with the pumpkin bucket for 24 hours or so, then it goes “away” and the remaining candy is seldom asked for anyway. We feel like it’s a special day and the rules should be stretched on such occasions. So yes, we let them eat like 50 pieces of candy over the course of a day. We eat an undisclosed amount ourselves in that time. Then it’s out of our lives, except for the random pieces nobody wants. They get thrown out when I clean out the pantry over Christmas break.

It turns out, we’re RIGHT! Ha! I love being right! I also love this article, and its mention that 10 beers will wash away stubborn gummy candy lodged in adult teeth, too.  Let Kids Gorge On Halloween Candy, Dentists Say

My other justification for letting them rot their insides one day a year is that, if we ration it, it’s just going to be around longer to tempt them and me. And it’s just one more thing I would have to monitor.

Obviously, you do what works in your house. All I know is Halloween is one fun, long day – and usually involves me plodding down the street, hypocritically telling them “No, I will not carry your heavy bucket, that is YOUR candy, you can carry it.” I need no more to do than I already have.

I am too busy carrying my own sustenance.

#parentinghacks  #notwater

How about you? “Eat ALL the candy!!” or save it to be savored later?

Bionic Woman

So last time we talked, I was psyching myself up for a heart function test that would decide if my heart was pumping efficiently enough to get me out of the “severely depressed function” category of  cardiac patients. If not, I would need an implanted defibrillator. Statistically, people in my boat are significantly more likely to have their hearts (spontaneously?!) stop pumping. Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of natural death in the U. S. So, this test…um…Sorry I didn’t update sooner. A bunch of kind folks have been asking me how it went, or saying they assumed no news was good news.

Yeah, about that…


My EKG (electrocardiogram, measures electrical impulses within the heart and its patter of beating) “looked good”. Not having had one that “looked good” yet, this was hopeful.  My echocardiogram said that structurally, there is some improvement in the shape and size of my heart, too – in the hospital my left ventricle was dilated and weaker. It looks closer to normal than it did 8 months ago.

But (You knew there was a “but”. And also, ha, I said “butt”):

My heart function, how well it was actually doing its pumping job, was exactly the same. EX. ACT. LY. the same as in April. So now, I get one of these exciting new accessories.

My thoughts on this situation include but are not limited to:

  • G**D*** it, REALLY?
  • I want a re-do.
  • This machine runs on batteries. I do not have a good track record with batteries. Ask my phone.
  • What if it doesn’t work? What if it zaps me when it’s not supposed to? The stupid vest thingy used to turn on alarms and arm itself to zap me like every other day, for no reason. It scared the crap out of me, my family, and my students.
  • In addition to my other issues with being in a bathing suit, I could (depending on which model I get) have a slightly-smaller-than-a-stopwatch thingy tucked under my skin on the left side of my chest, like a creepy-ass Borg implant? Lovely. #startrekreference
  • Immediately after getting it, I am not supposed to use my left arm or lift it for 4 weeks. Suuuuuuuure. (Holiday concerts, conducting, horn playing, all kinds of things are left-arm dependent. This is not going to be easy.)
  • Scars. And every 7-10 years having to have the “procedure” (if they put you under and cut you open it’s not called “surgery”?) again and again, so they can change the battery – and therefore, MORE scars.
Thank you, Wesley. Do I need to stop making breast jokes related to this implant now?

They are careful to point out that the ICD won’t improve heart function. Mine is still wussy,  D***it, and now that we’ve seen what it can do on meds, it’s likely that it’ll stay where it is; in wuss-land.

Here is what Mayoclinic.Org had to say about the main type of implanted defibrillator:

“Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). After your condition stabilizes, your doctor is likely to recommend implantation of an ICD. An ICD is a battery-powered unit that’s implanted near your left collarbone. One or more electrode-tipped wires from the ICD run through veins to your heart. The ICD constantly monitors your heart rhythm. If it detects a rhythm that’s too slow, it paces your heart as a pacemaker would. If it detects a dangerous heart rhythm change, it sends out low- or high-energy shocks to reset your heart to a normal rhythm. An ICD may be more effective than preventive drug treatment at reducing your chance of having a fatal arrhythmia.”

Addition by one of my doctors: “This thing is 99.99% effective – almost perfect – at reviving you if your heart stops. Yes, you are much more likely to go into cardiac arrest, but with this you very likely won’t die from it.” Gotta say, I like that last part a whole lot! Duh.

The ICD is basically like really great car insurance and a seatbelt. Right now, it’s like I’m driving around in a car that doesn’t work as well it should and I’m much  more likely to get in an accident than the average person… and I have no insurance, seat belts, side-curtain airbag, etc.

So, I get to have another round of tests done to see which of those lovely electrical do-dads is best for me. Then we put it in as soon as possible. If I sound kind of matter-of-fact about this, it’s because I’m trying to pretend to approach this situation as an adult, who has family to think of. In reality, I’m pretty damn pissed at the universe that this whole Cardio-Crappile isn’t resolving by now. I’m also scared of the implanting procedure  – they intentionally put you in cardiac arrest after it’s in, so they can test the machine’s function. This does not sound fun. I think I should get a T-shirt that says “I survived medically-induced cardiac arrest!”. I don’t feel like fitting more hospital stay crap and a recovery month into my life right now, either. Wah. 

But I’m also grateful – so grateful –  that this technology exists. I am still lucky. I’ve been driving around without a seat belt, or whatever, for a while now. While I don’t particularly feel like being the Bionic Woman, this totally beats any possible alternatives.

So that’s my update. I get to be Meg 2.0, with new hardware.

Test Prep

So tomorrow (or today, or the 22nd, whatever) I have a heart function test. Just like the one I had in April, that was SO definitive (not). It’s an ultrasound of the heart in action. It takes about 45 minutes and measures how much of the blood your heart pushes out with each pump, called your “ejection fraction”. You want it to be something like 55-85%. Mine was 35% last time, and when I was “crashing” back in February, it was 15-20%. Scary, but I was ultimately ok, so not that scary. This test will give me a new ejection fraction number. It’s very dignified, as a woman, getting this test done. You basically get to 2nd base with a technician and their transducer thing. Hopefully they also have a sense of humor.

I’m not one for those “here’s what’s happening in my mundane life” blog posts (God I hope) but this is kind of important. Definitely worthy of the sick day taken in September. If the % doesn’t go up enough, I get to have a nice metal doo-hicky implanted in me that will shock my heart if it stops beating. Which it’s much more likely to do, if it’s not doing its thing well.

Only I have much better boobs than this guy.

Have you ever been slightly freaked out by how much you’re not freaked out by something? That part about ‘possible implanted metal and heart-shocking gear’ sounds a tad alarming… and yet during my work day today I forgot three or four times that I had to leave sub plans and prepare to take off to go to the hospital tomorrow. Duh.  I kept thinking it was going to be a regular Tuesday morning. I’ve been too busy living my nice little life to worry about this crap lately. The start of fall and the school year has been easy and fun; after one hiccup hubby landed a very nice new job (more about that later), the girls are good and life is kind of chill. Plus I honestly feel exponentially better than I did last fall, when I had no idea I was sick. It’s a blessing when you forget that you might wanna worry about something after all.

The preliminary appointment for this test was Friday and things looked good. I had kind of forgotten that they’d do another heart function test in the first place. I sort of assumed this stupid thing was winding down now. Then they switched my meds and reminded me that blah blah blah 1. I’m still a fainting risk, and now, moreso. 2. I need to schedule alarms 4 times a day to space all these meds out so I don’t faint, and 3. Why haven’t I bought a wrist blood pressure monitor to carry around yet like they told me to, just in case? Ummmm because it doesn’t match my purse? My morbid specialist guy also called earlier to reminded me “no coffee or no lotions on the skin on test day, and by the way: If you fail this it’s surgery time”.   

Dammit man, I was busy wondering where we’ll go on vacation and when the next season of House of Cards is out. Stahp. 

These guys are paid to worry. I’m gonna let them worry for me. I’m not going to say I have a good feeling about this thing, because you just don’t tempt fate like that, but…