Saturday, August 11, 2018

Don't be still, my heart.

It was July 26, and it was a quiet day at work. In fact, there were just two of us in the office that afternoon, and while both Jackie and I had work with which to busy ourselves, none of it was terribly pressing. She and I were visiting in her office when I was suddenly hit with the worst indigestion I'd ever had. I reached for a peppermint from the little candy dish on her desk, where she keeps a steady supply of hard candies for everybody in the office, popped it in my mouth hoping it would ease my discomfort, and went down the hall to my own office.

Moments later, the discomfort not lessened in the least, I began instead to feel jarring pain under my right shoulder blade, and put my head down on my desk to catch my breath. I was just beginning to sit up again when Jackie showed up at my door, asking if I could answer a question for a donor who was on the line. When I lifted my head  a searing pain shot up through my jaw, and I just looked at her and said, "I think I'm having a heart attack." 

I had read articles about how women tend to exhibit vastly different symptoms of cardiac distress than do men, and that the ofttimes much more subtle signs are often brushed off as heartburn, or hot flashes, or dozens of other generalized feelings of being unwell and unsettled. As women, we tend not to want to bother anybody, and surely we don't want to set off alarms only to be embarrassed later when whatever was causing us distress passed of its own accord. 

But sudden onset, radiating pain to the jaw was so often a characteristic, that I just blurted out what I was thinking. Jackie moved quickly to grab the telephone in my office and dialed 911.  

And I reached over and hung the phone up. 

Because I didn't want to be embarrassed if it turned out to be nothing. Because somebody who was in worse shape that I might need them more. Because it was a very inconvenient time for me to have a medical emergency. Because I just did not want to be having a medical emergency. 

It took less than 30 seconds for 911 to call back, however, and in those seconds I had come to my senses and knew I might actually need help. 

In a flash, paramedics were standing in my office, taking my vital signs, all of which seemed to be just fine. They were actually packing up and I was, as is my wont, rattling on about how silly I felt, but that when that pain in my jaw happened I had panicked.  The minute they heard that, out came the leads for an 3-point EKG, and things got a bit real. Reading the results of that first one concerned one of them sufficiently that they called for an ambulance and insisted on doing a 12-point EKG. This pretty much shut me up -- a feat that many people in my life will have difficulty believing. 

The second EKG seemed to indicate that I was likely fine, but they still advised I jump on the stretcher that was now in the hallway outside my office and let them take me to the hospital. I declined, but did call to make an appointment with my doctor before they left the office. 

I went for blood work the next day, all of which came back utterly normal. Turns out, I am a pretty disgustingly healthy 60 year old woman with a heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level that others would kill for. No Type 2 Diabetes, every single aspect of my blood chemistry is perfect. I do have a bit of a heart murmur, but it's very boring and nothing that my doctor or I can get worked up about.  

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because it could have gone a completely different way, and had that happened, and had I been foolish enough to wave off offers of help, you might be reading my obituary instead of my blog post. 

Here's what I want you -- especially my women friends -- to take away from this:

Not a single medical professional in this scenario made me feel silly for having had this checked out. Not a single one made me feel like I'd wasted their time. To a one, they all insisted that I (well, my coworker, Jackie) had done exactly the right thing. They all said they'd rather do a dozen calls that turn out to be nothing than to have a single person die because they didn't want to bother anybody. 

Please take this to heart. One out of four of you, statistically speaking, will die of heart disease of some sort. While it is true that we are all going to go of something someday, I'm not ready to cede the point just yet, and I don't want you to, either. 

Take care of yourself. Take a walk. Be mindful of how you're fueling your body. Be even more mindful of the hundreds of things you are letting steal your peace. 

And don't be afraid or embarrassed to call for help when you think you might need it. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Word to My Generous Friends

Facebook's new prompt, asking participants there to set up fundraisers in advance of impending birthdays is arguably one of their better "think ups." I've donated modest amounts to a number of my friends' requests, happily.  Noblesse oblige, after all.

I thought I'd join in with my own 60th birthday right around the corner, but I just have too many favorite nonprofits, and since I believe strongly in staying local I thought I might just list those that are of particular interest to me. If you are inclined to make a bit of a gift to any of them, I - and they - would be grateful. Here's the list, in no particular order. If you'll click on the name of the organization, you'll land on their website. Even if giving to any of them right now is not possible, I hope you will take a minute to learn about the amazing things going on in the city I love and in which I am fully invested. 

Please click through the link marked "news" and read the whole story about founder Charles Lee. Don't you ever get "lost in the sauce," folks.

Music is metaphor, and this season of the Chorale especially has endeavored to build bridges across this community. This coming weekend they will be presenting the same concert featuring Robert Ray's Gospel Mass in two different venues, on two different days.  I'll be attending the Friday night performance at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church.  I hope to see you there. 

An amazing, God-touched ministry of my church that has engaged the entire community, serving those with Alzheimers and other dementia-related conditions. So remarkable have the results of this been that it is being adopted by households of faith in other cities as well. Donations can be made to them in care of First United Methodist Church, 2416 W. Cloverdale Park, Montgomery, AL  36106

The SCC made a profound difference to my family during a difficult time. No one should be unable to get mental health or family counseling because they cannot afford it. Donations to SCC make it possible for individuals and families to get the help they need when they need it. 


There are dozens of national organizations that I support, of course, and many of you do as well. These are the ones I am laser-focused on right now. 

And honestly, giving to any charity of your choice, whether it's in my honor or not, is just the rent we pay for living in this world, so do that. Give to a house of worship in your community that needs your help. Give to a teacher in a local public school who is spending her/his own money to educate the people who will be leading our communities in the future. 

Beyond that, if you are stretched beyond measure and any of that would be a burden on you, don't fret. Here's some other things you can do!

The next time somebody cuts you off in traffic,
speak a word of peace instead of a word of anger. 

The next time you hear a child having a tantrum in a public place,
speak a word of gentleness to them and their caretaker. 

The next time you want to tell off a waiter, or a retail clerk, or a parent at the ballpark, hold your tongue and remember that day you were struggling with something nobody else knew about and when you might have been at your worst. 

Think before speaking. 


Find joy in something simple. 

Make your default setting kindness. 

Breathe in. 

Breathe out. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Year in Books

I've crunched numbers this morning, and here's what my 2017 reading habits were:
I read 62 books (Goodreads says 63, but it's counting one it shouldn't for reasons I can't quite figure out).
88.7% of them were works of fiction, and of those, 30.9% were mysteries/thrillers.

I read 43 books on Kindle (formerly referred to by me as Spawn of the Evil Empire); 9 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, 4 paperback advance reader copies, and listened to 4 via audiobooks.
19.3% of these were checked out from from either the Montgomery City-County Public Library or the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, some in hardcover, some in eBook format on my Kindle.
8 books came to me like manna from the sky: 2 through Goodreads' Giveaway promotions, 5 from Netgalley, and 1 borrowed from my sister-in-law.
I ditched 5 books this year(not included in the above number), 3 of which I intend to put back in rotation for another time. (Sometimes a book doesn't grab you when you grab it).
The oldest book I read was published in 1911, and the "newest" was an advance copy of one that will be published in 2018.
My five star books aren't all created equal(ly) well; they just struck me as the best of their sort when I read them, or maybe they were just the right book at the right time, but I believe they are of special merit to most readers. If one isn't comparing genre to genre, there are plenty of four star books that are better (in a critical literary way) than some of those with five stars.

(The top 5 are linked to my reviews. Other five stars are listed in no particular order.)

Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple -Jeff Guinn, read by George Newbern

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

Educated: A Memoir - Tara Westover

I Liked My Life - Abby Fabiaschi

Wonder  (R.J. Palacio)
Rage Against the Dying  (Becky Masterman)
Keepers of the House  (Shirley Ann Grau)
The Last Ballad  (Wiley Cash)
The Risen  (Ron Rash)
The Lewis Man (Peter May)
The Scarred Woman (Jussi Adler-Olsen)
Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies  (Ace Atkins)
Before the Fall (Noah Hawley)
The Grownup (Gillian Flynn)
Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)

(The "nearly fives" are linked to reviews, listed in no particular order.)

Dodgers - Bill Beverly

A Chance in the World  - Steve Pemberton

The Book Thief  (Markus Zusak)
If I Forget You (Thomas Christopher Greene)
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Helen Simonson)
The Best Kind of People (Zoe Whittall)
I Will Send Rain (Rae Meadows)
A Morbid Taste for Bones (Ellis Peters)
The Rules of Magic (Alice Hoffman)
The Dry (Jane Harper)
The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
Eveningland: Stories (Michael Knight)
Love and Other Consolation Prizes (Jamie Ford)
Fear the Darkness (Becky Masterman)
Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
Edgar & Lucy (Victor Lodato)


I'm currently reading this one, and hope it'll be a great kick off to my list of books read in 2018!