My Travels, Health, and Healing my Human Heart

My Travels, Health, and Healing my Human Heart

Florida Artist Rita Schwab is holding her beautiful glass mosaic that reflects journey, path, heart 🙂

This is a long post with a long story that begins with just a catch up on our travels including our experience with the flu, and then my cardiology journey and resistance to doctor’s orders. If you have ever felt you and your doctor were not communicating-read this post. Enjoy!!

This year we have done a lot of traveling-California in January, Nevada and Arizona in February, Florida in March and early April, and in May I went on a wonderful and writer changing retreat in beautiful and peaceful Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each of these trips have their own story and lots more to share.

It’s been both fun and exhausting and Steve has set his own boundaries around travel. “I can’t unpack and repack a suitcase without an at home for a while break. “It’s too much!” I, on the other hand have a hard time saying no to life and opportunities to travel, explore and experience everything. Steve reached his limit when after completing a delightful family Caribbean cruise, we embarked for a 10-day vacation to be with friends in Cape Coral, Florida and the second day there he was diagnosed with Influenza B. Poor Steve. For the first week of that trip he was either outside on their beautiful lanai or in the house wearing a mask. Although our friends were wonderful, “like family”, and we did enjoy many great conversations in between rest time, this did take a toll on all of us.  Our dear friends hung in there with us and we all went on Tamiflu. I was the only one who did not have at least a day of the flu.

At the Urgent Care, it was noted that my blood pressure had climbed to 160/90 ­— yikes! I was stressed. I managed my stress by writing daily out in the Tiki Hut down on their deck and canal landing. It is a beautiful and serene place to reflect and write. Some days I would just rest in the hammock or sit and meditate and listen to the many sounds of nature. It helped that the weather was beautiful. I also enjoyed an evening glass of wine, which I noticed did lower my blood pressure. Toward the end of our stay we were able to go out and enjoy the last few days of our trip. One of our outings was an art fair in Cape Coral where I met and photographed the artist, Rita Schwab and her glass piece used with her permission as my photo for this post.

By the time we got home and to our own beds, Steve was exhausted and I was concerned about my heart. I purchased a new OMRON B/P monitor and made an appt with a cardiologist.I continued to monitor my blood pressure and it varied-sometimes high and other times normal.  I really focused on my breathing and although I did not sit in formal meditation every day, I attempted to stay mindful of my thoughts and pace of living.

As I sat in the cardiologist’s waiting room, I felt a bit out of place. The room was filled with elderly people, some in wheelchairs, and the younger patients were very overweight. I “pride” myself in being as healthy as I can “the middle way” through exercise, a plant-based diet, and meditation, yet here I was. I have to admit I have a strong family history of heart disease—Mom, Dad, and siblings. But I thought I was different and was on top of controlling the risk factors, at least that’s what I thought. Yet now I realize how hard it is to control the biggest risk factor-underlying tension and anxiety.

My cholesterol is high but so is my good cholesterol. I used to smoke but quit 36 years ago, and I have not been overweight since nursing school. Why was I there? My primary care physician was okay with me going although he has never seen my blood pressure over 120/70. He takes my blood pressure every time I see him, and he carefully monitors my lipid profile every year.

Long story short, the cardiologist was not quick to put me on any medication (I liked that!) until I had some tests to determine if I, indeed, showed signs of heart disease. He ordered an echocardiogram and coronary calcium scan (CAT Scan of the heart and its major blood vessels). I was game. The heart scan took about 20 minutes and the echocardiogram took almost an hour.

The next day I got a call from the nurse who gave me the results of my tests—the echo was normal and the heart scan showed minimal heart disease, better than most for my age so the doctor would like me to take a daily 81 mg of Aspirin and 40 mg of Lipitor. Noooooooooooooo.You would have thought she told me the doctor wanted to do open heart surgery. I totally reacted with surprise, anger, sadness, and disappointment and asked that she have the doctor call me.

He did, and it did not go well. The American College of Cardiology recommends the aspirin and Lipitor for a patient picture like mine. Actually there are many cardiologists that feel we should all be on a statin.  But that’s it! This doctor really does not know me and I am not a typical patient. I had only seen him one time, and we need to go beyond one size fits all medicine. My primary care physician is an MD with years of alternative medicine experience and for over 25 years has followed my health and prescribed the daily supplements I take. I take no prescription medicine and don’t want to start. On the other hand, I also don’t want to have a heart attack or stroke and would welcome a plan to prevent further heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.

When the cardiologist called, I let him know how disappointed I was that the nurse called and that we did not talk before I was given a prescribed plan that included a statin drug without more discussion on its benefits and its risks. Statin drugs do lower cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, but they also come with an array of side effects—muscle aches and weakness, GI symptoms, and more. There is a ton of research that is now questioning the cost/benefit of statins.

I have to admit, I did not give the doctor a chance to explain how we would proceed or how he would follow up with me. When I got off the phone, I felt sad that the conversation did not go well and I wished I had sat in a 30-minute meditation prior to speaking with this doctor. This doctor has an excellent reputation as a cardiologist, is very kind and personable and I am sure he has saved many lives. I wish I could have expressed myself in a better way to be heard by the doctor. I also wish his office would have scheduled a follow up appointment so that he could go over the results with me in his office. Most of all I have used this experience to reflect on my own defensiveness and fear and also trust that there is a blanket of universal forgiveness between both of us.

Doctor patient communication can be difficult. There is fear on all sides. I have a deep respect for the medical profession. I am a Registered Nurse and know how difficult it is to navigate around a system that is frustrating to the patient and the doctor. And I also know that in today’s world of alternative, integrative and functional medicine, there is much that medical schools and nursing schools have failed to teach. The research is often driven by pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in us taking drugs when there are so many alternatives to healing. I will not take a long-term prescription without research and that is my current mission about statin drugs and heart disease prevention and treatment in general.

Dr. Danielle Ofri’s book What Patients Say. What Doctors Hear, states it well:

Patients, anxious to convey their symptoms, feel an urgency to “make their case” to their doctors. Doctors, under pressure to be efficient, multitask while patients speak and often miss the key elements. Add in stereotypes, unconscious bias, conflicting agendas, and the fear of lawsuits and the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors multiplies dangerously.

 A week later, I went to my primary care physician. He agreed that going on a statin drug was premature, but also agreed that we needed to take the tests serious and take a closer look at my cardiac risks and current status. He was grateful to have the test results for additional information about my health. He recommended beets and cayenne pepper as nutritional support for the heart. He also recommended 1000 mg of Niacinamide (Vit B3 derivative-not as much research on its affect on cholesterol like Niacin). He also said he may want me on a low dose of of Zocor, which is a statin. I might add that my physician knows me well and suggested I relax and balance my chakras.

My lifestyle supports health but there is more I can do. I exercise (making sure I get 10,000 steps a day) but could increase the intensity of my walks and add more strength training. My diet is plant based; no red meat and I avoid saturated fat- but I am far from perfect and need to be more aware of salt and sugar. I do meditate, but I am a hyper personality and need to focus on breath awareness and slowing down in between life’s adventures. But more important than all of that is that I often feel I live in two worlds. On one hand I teach and coach a very deep spiritual path of love and forgiveness and on the other hand I have the same fears of illness and death as everyone else. Our fears fuel our defenses and often cause us to separate rather than join.

In two months we will repeat all of the blood tests that aid in determining my current heart disease risk. Since being more mindful of my diet, exercise and meditation as well as forgiving myself and the doctor,  (Forgiveness is a powerful medicine for the heart), I have noticed my blood pressure has been staying within the normal range and I am hoping my blood tests show that I can reduce my heart disease risks without taking medicine.

In the meantime, I will continue my research, be mindful of my lifestyle, and stay “open hearted”. I have a follow up appointment with the cardiologist in 6 months. I’m not sure if he is the right fit for me, but it would be nice if we could meet again. I will go prepared to listen to him and hopefully he can also listen to my concerns and we can join in a much more productive manner.

In the end, its not about any of this. It’s always about all the lessons we learn along the way and as I continue the journey, I enjoy bringing you along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aging, Dying, Red Convertibles, Wine and Chocolate

Aging, Dying, Red Convertibles, Wine and Chocolate

My friend Janet and I with her red convertible. Notice the basket of wine and chocolate.

A friend of mine owns a red convertible. She got it over 18 years ago and it still looks great. She is now in her late 70s but as vibrant as her car. Her license plate is Joy 4 All, and she lives that every day of her life from her vintage clothes and hats, to her thoughtful gifts and notes. This friend recently lost her oldest son to early dementia so it’s hard for her to have that joy all the time. In fact, as she feels her grief and experiences her body aging, like all of us, she has occasional meltdowns. But not for long, for something will come along that not only delights her but delights someone else.

Recently one of her neighbors was celebrating their mother’s 94th birthday party. One of the things on her bucket list was to drive around in a red convertible. The son of the birthday girl was trying to figure out how to make this dream come true. He called several rental car companies to no avail. No one had an available red convertible for rent. He thought of borrowing one from a car dealer, but unless you put a down payment on the auto, you are out of luck. Then an idea came to him. He said to his wife, “ Doesn’t our neighbor own a red convertible?” Light bulb idea!!! He called my friend and said he had an out-of-the-box favor to ask. Could he borrow her red convertible? My friend, joyful as can be, thought this was a great idea and would be happy to let him use the car for the day.

On the day of her birthday, the son surprised his mother by picking her up in the morning for a day of celebration and driving around in a red convertible. She was so delighted and could not believe her dream came true. They had a day out to brunch,  then  took a ferry ride to Maysville and toured the home of Rosemary Clooney followed by a celebration dinner.

Later that day they returned the car, full of gas, with the utmost gratitude. My friend told me this story with a smile on her face -“Oh! It was so much fun to make someone’s dream come true!”

I have another friend who recently celebrated her 77th birthday in hospice. Two weeks ago she was walking my neighborhood and now has weeks to live due to a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. I went to visit her. It was 11:30 in the morning and there she was sipping a small bottle of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc. I said, “ Are you drinking wine?” I was smiling as I do love wine and thought, why not? Glad they let you have it here. I think I might want to do the same thing. She turned her head to me and said, “Yep! All day long-that and chocolate. What else can I do?” She explained that she chose not to have any treatment, but rather to take the path of palliative care, which assures comfort and allows her to spend what time she has left with her family and friends and enjoy her wine and chocolate. She said if anyone asks what to bring-wine and chocolate!

A group of us put a basket together for her. Each person contributed something based on the theme, wine, chocolate, and comfort care. We brought her a basket full of wine, chocolate, cookies, books, and more. I think she appreciated the thoughts as well as the things. She died about 10 days later at peace and surrounded by her family

One never knows how much time we have left to age and then to die. We don’t all have the same dreams or the same joys. We don’t all have the same experiences, but what we do have is a choice to live as full a life as we can and to be there when someone asks for an out of the box favor and to give with an open heart. It is healing for all.

It has been awhile since I wrote this and I want to add that we all should imagine just for a day that we are in hospice with only 6 months to live. How will you live those days? Angry? Afraid? At peace? Have you had those important conversations with loved ones and friends? Don’t wait to suddenly be told you only have weeks or months to live. We all are on a time line. Life is precious.

 

 

 

Taking It Slow Got Me In Trouble

Taking It Slow Got Me In Trouble

I recently got pulled over for going too slow. I love to take my time on the country roads between my home and visiting my Godmother at the nursing home in Centerville. I set my WAZE navigation app for avoiding freeways. That way it takes me through the small town of Lebanon and along beautiful tree lined roads with large homes and gardens, farms and pastures.

On Fridays or Saturdays, I stop at all the garage sales if I have time. I love garage sales-not just for the small items or books I may buy for a couple of dollars, but also to chat with the sellers. This Friday on my way, I stopped at one sale, and the house had the most beautiful landscape. There were flowers everywhere neatly groomed into garden areas around the mailbox, and light post. There was a large manmade pond in the front yard surrounded by perfectly groomed flowers, hosta plants, and garden sculptors and decorative pots. There were 8 foot Dalia plants and a variety of perennials and annuals. The back yard was a beautiful array of retreat areas, trellises, rocks, and stone paths. There was a fairy garden and a tree house, a quintessential potting shed and a beautiful wooden swing set and play yard. As I got to know the owners, I learned they had several grandchildren who enjoy visiting and exploring Grandma and Grandpa’s paradise. They also enjoy the small pontoon boat sitting peacefully in the front yard pond. I didn’t buy anything at the garage sale but learned more about gardening and then headed on my way.

I continued to traverse the country roads and enjoyed a couple of more sales before finally reaching the nursing home for my visit. After taking my Godmother out to a small quaint European Café for lunch and a trip to the doctor, I brought her back to her room, hugged her, and looked forward to my 40-minute drive home again enjoying the country roads and catching any sales I might have missed along the way.

I never worry about the speed limit as I love just taking my time if I’m not in a hurry to get home. Today was one of those afternoons. As I was driving I saw some garage sale signs, I hesitated for a minute before realizing I had been to those sales, so I kept driving. I noticed a police car following me and feeling innocent I didn’t think much of it until the car in back of me had turned, and the policeman kept following me. I got a little nervous as I was driving by a school zone-however the lights for the lowered speed were not flashing. I thought I better be safe so I only went 25 miles an hour in the 20- mile school zone. And there went the flashing lights. I thought, Could he have gotten me for going 5 miles over the speed limit? Or was he stopping me for something else? Was I speeding before? Oh dear!

I pulled over into the school parking lot and sat there waiting for him to come to my window and ask for my license. I rolled down my window and said, “ What did I do wrong?” He said, “ You have done a lot wrong!” Gosh, I thought I’m in big trouble-although I couldn’t imagine what would make me so guilty. He continued, “ For one thing you hesitated at an intersection where there was no stop sign! I started to tell him that was because I thought I saw the garage sale sign but realized I’d already been to that one. He interrupted me without humor, “ And do you know you are going 45 miles an hour in a 55- mile speed zone? Then you go slow in a school zone, and the lights were not flashing so you were supposed to go the speed limit.” I apologized. I said I just like to take my time and felt nervous with you behind me.”  He said, “ I have to ask-Are you impaired? Do you have any warrants? Are you a diabetic on the verge of coma? I can see you were not texting, but if you were, that would be another problem.”

I politely said with sincerity, “ No, I’m fine. I just like to enjoy the country roads and stop at garage sales along the way. And truthfully I did not know what to do in the school zone. I could see it wasn’t flashing, and there were no cars in the school parking lot, but I feel nervous when a policeman is following me. “

Then he smiled, and said, “ Well I’m not giving you a ticket or anything but in the future go with the speed limit and be careful at intersections. I do still have to see that you are a legal driver and have a license so please take your license out of your wallet.” Gladly I gave him my license. He took it back to his car, and I remembered I had expired epinephrine injectors and albuterol inhalers in my trunk. They were from an old emergency drug kit from Steve’s dental office. I needed to discard of them and had not yet taken them to the local police dept. God, what if he searches my car! Drugs. Then I thought of anything that could be on my record. I think I’m clean and hopefully my license plate ALLARONE will soften him a bit.

He came back to the window. Gave me my license and was much more congenial.

He said, “ You are clean. Not a ticket in 10 years. I had to do my job. When I see someone going slow, often they are either impaired or texting. My sister is diabetic, and I have been called more than once to come get her on the side of the road when her blood sugar was off.” I empathized with him and acknowledged that had to be hard and make him more aware of impaired or sick drivers.

I told him I understood and I appreciated his concern, but I’m fine. Just like to take my time. I did think about the danger of texting and driving. I told him, generally I use my blue tooth for calls and avoid texting, but I do occasionally have to adjust my WAZE while driving. He said they are not allowed to ticket for using a navigation system and mentioned they hadn’t ticketed much for texting but the time is coming for more stringency on this issue. Just like to take my time. I thanked him for caring, and we both agreed to “stay safe.”

 

More on Retirement-Two Great Books Two Great Interviews

More on Retirement-Two Great Books Two Great Interviews

Enjoy these two interviews I conducted 6 years ago for my Blog Talk Radio show, The Middle Way Health. Now that I am retired these two interviews were even more meaningful to me today. If you plan to retire within the next 5 years, I highly recommend these books.

 

Retire With a Mission by Dr. Richard Wendel.

Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Dr. Richard Wendel on Retirement. Dr. Wendel is a retired urologist who has both written the book Retire With a Mission and has given many lectures on retirement.

 

 

 

 

Your Retirement Quest by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence

Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence. Alan and Keith are retired P & G executives and enjoyed writing the book Your Retirement Quest and have given many seminars on retirement.

 

 

I’ve Been Busy With Retirement

I’ve Been Busy With Retirement

I’ve Been Busy with Retirement

“A well planned retirement does not give you more time, but allows you to use the time you’re given to do what you truly want to be doing without a lot of planning.” Me

First, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to all of my readers who look forward to my writing and blogs. Second I want to apologize for the long wait between musings. Third, I want to tell you how busy retirement can be.

I have so many things I could write about and ideas come to me throughout the day –When I am watering my flowers. My potted flowers look quite colorful and beautiful, and my beds still wait for the pansies to completely dry up and be replaced with something more interesting.

When I work out. I am great about getting my 10,000 steps and still love walking with my friends, but found walking does not do much for the flab under my arms that shakes when I talk with my hands. Nor does walking flatten the belly, which seems to extend a bit over my belt line these days. I now go regularly to the Mason Community Center to take advantage of my Silver Sneakers membership of 13.00/month and unlimited fitness classes. At first, I was a little too aggressive and lacked the humility that would wisely guide me to build up to the harder workouts.

I got right into a TRX class, not having any idea what it was. I walked in and asked what class was going on next, and the kind ladies at the front desk said, “TRX.” “Oh, where is the class?” I asked. “Over by the apparatus that looks like swings.” the front desk lady pointed. “That sounds good to me.” I naively stated. TRX is a workout done with straps that you adjust according to the exercise for a whole body workout –upper and then lower body. I was okay with the arm routine, but when I was instructed to place my feet into the straps, I got all twisted, my feet fell out of the straps, and when I finally got my feet positioned correctly, my leg started cramping. I think I was a big distraction for the group, of much younger women, I might add. I finally said, “Well, is anyone else here a Grandma? I am Silver Sneakers.” They laughed and continued with the workout. I did too! However, I did the work without the straps and decided I best try something else next time.

After three weeks of attending five classes a week including several yoga classes, I woke up one morning and while shaving my legs, put my back out of alignment. I had to back off the workouts and upon returning work out at a more “senior” or “silver” pace. Nevertheless, my body does seem to be transforming.

I get ideas when I am painting. Yes-I am now unleashing the creative artist in me. I had never tried my hand at painting or drawing except for a couple of those classes where everyone paints the same picture with step by step instructions from a teacher. My art always came out as a bit more original. I did enjoy allowing myself to play with the colors and use my intuition to guide the brush on the canvas.

Having no idea how to get started, I looked for some used art supplies and was able to purchase all of the supplies from a fine arts graduate who no longer had time to paint. For $100 I bought all of her supplies that included acrylics, water colors, charcoals, pastels, canvases, sketch pads, pencils, art cases, paint boxes and more. All I had to do was get some good brushes and some books on art instruction, and I was ready. I now attend an art class through the Community Center, free with my Silver Sneakers membership.

   When I Travel -Travel is great for unleashing ideas for my next blog post, but I seldom bring my computer, preferring my paper journals and pen to digital writing. Since retirement, Steve and I have traveled to Chicago several times; spent two weeks throughout the state of Florida, and just returned from a two-week road trip through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, and West Virginia. We love staying with friends but also are regular Air B and B users. It’s been fun to be able to go away without having to get back to a working schedule.

On these trips we have enjoyed family and friends, two weddings and historical visits to Montpelier, James Madison’s home and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Ideas often come when I am with my grandchildren. They are inspiring and love to be inspired. Having my grandchildren close and being retired affords us lots of time to be together.

And when I am visiting my Godmother, who is now in a nursing home in Centerville, Ohio, a long way away from her Chicago roots. She and I have had inspiring conversations about aging, dreams, spirituality and more.

So you can see that while I would like to sit at my computer and compose an inspiring blog or even share excerpts from the memoir I wish I had more time to write, I am busy-good busy. I love letting the universe plan my days and allowing for spontaneity.

Steve just turned 70 after I turned 65 and we are both seniors and retired. Those words are sometimes hard to say, but we are embracing our time together and the time for new adventures.

In the meantime, I continue to teach A Course in Miracles, and I have been open to offer my service of wellness and life coaching for those who are ready for a change.

Life is good! Retirement is good! Hope all is well with you!

 

 

 

Friendship The Medicine of Life

Friendship The Medicine of Life

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares.”

-Henri Nouwen

Friendship is an art. We are born into families but we must cultivate our friends. A true friend is priceless- someone you can call when you are confused, have a problem, or when you are excited and want to celebrate. Sometimes we need a friend to listen and not fix our problems or advise us with the best solution. Yet, how many people have someone in their life who will listen and love unconditionally without an ulterior motive; without asking for anything in return; someone whose own spirit is lifted by allowing you to share your dreams, worries, fears, confusion, anger, and other emotions.

This is rare in today’s society because we are in a hurry and listening takes time. It is also difficult these days because much of our communication is lost in texting, e-mail, facebook, and lack of self-awareness and mindfulness. How can we understand what someone else is feeling if we never take the time to understand our own inner world? Make friends with yourself first and you will be able to open your heart to others.

Like doctors, we want to give our friend a solution. Often we don’t want a solution; we just want to talk it out. A true healer will listen until they don’t exist so the other person can come up with their own solution, but this takes time.

There was a time when I went to a doctor and I said to him, “You know, Doctor, I think there is an emotional component to this and I really want to heal at a deeper level.” He looked at me with a sense of helplessness, and said, “Well, get up on the table and let me listen to your heart.” After putting the cold stethoscope on my chest, he proclaimed, “You are just fine.” Isn’t that funny? Would he really take the time to listen to my heart and soul and mind? No, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t have time. Listening to someone’s feelings and emotions is difficult. We quickly want to solve the problem, hurry the pain away, and heal the person. We can’t expect our doctors to be our friends, but if we had more friends we might not need as many doctors.

You may have a “ton of friends,” but how many of your friendships are open and unreserved allowing you both to expose your soul and unleash your feelings and emotions without fear. You are fortunate if among the multitudes of people you know, you have one or two trusting friends who will be there for you even when they don’t understand you.

Cultivating friendship takes time and thought and the ability to give and to forgive. It is the desire to want to be in a relationship with another human being for no other reason than the healing energy of knowing you can count on that person and they can count on you in life when it is challenging or when it is exciting. This kind of friendship is the best medicine.

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