Matters of the Heart, Part 29

I really didn’t expect to be writing another installment of this series. After all there’ve been 28 installments so far, the last one being in September of 2019. A little more than two years ago.

Certainly enough stories, right?

Well, you would think so.

But after the last heart valve procedure, which is still doing very well, thank goodness, both of Ben’s doctors determined that he was a very good candidate for a device called the Watchman. This device is implanted in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. It permanently closes off that area of the heart in which blood clots can form for patients like Ben who have a history of atrial fibrillation or AFib (which can lead to a stroke).

AFib patients, even those with pacemakers, like Ben, are on blood thinners daily to prevent blood clots from forming. This particular device prevents such clots from forming, thus eliminating the need for patients to take blood thinners daily, which in Ben’s case have also caused a number of blood vessel ruptures in his left eye, which has had numerous recurrences of iritis, which is another story altogher.

Naturally we had a lot of discussions on this procedure, as it’s only been around a little over ten years, and we’d never heard of it. But we did a lot of reading about it, and after several talks with his doctor, we decided that it was the right thing for him to do. Particularly since it was a non-invasive procedure in which the device was inserted into his heart through an artery in the groin, much like his last heart valve replacement. An overnight stay would be required, which was no big deal.

There were several tests that had to be done prior to getting final approval by the cardiology team (not to mention his health insurance, but that’s another matter entirely).

But before we could start the process, Covid hit, and although we’ve been extremely fortunate and neither of us or his medical professionals have contracted it, all elective surgeries were put on hold until further notice.

Of course the Watchman is an elective procedure. So we were on hold. For quite awhile. About 18 months or more.

We kept checking with the hospital and his doctors and finally the restrictions on elective surgeries were lifted. We made an appointment as soon as we could with his doctor to discuss the next steps.

When we were finally able to get the appointment  with his doctor we all quickly decided this was the best way for him to go, and proceeded to schedule the testing involved to be able to apply for approval not only within the cardiology group, but also with his insurance company for their approval.

Nothing is ever simple, though. And we also needed to do the surgery by the end of 2021 to avoid a huge out of pocket expense, since he’d already met his deductible for that year. And it was already early in October 2021.

So the process began…but not without a few complications along the way. Of course.

Read the next installment of “Matters of the Heart, Part 30″, to be published on January 24.

Do You Have the Courage?

The courage to do what needs to be done? The courage to make a change in your life?

Sometimes courage means holding on.

Sometimes courage means letting go.

Courage comes in other forms. The courage to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Or the courage to stop doing something you know isn’t right for you.

To have courage you must step out of your comfort zone, which is a courageous act in itself.

So do you have the courage?

De-Ornamenting the Trees 2022

I had originally posted this a few years ago, but decided to update it for this year,

I think I just invented a new word in 2018. Maybe. But it sure says what I’m feeling right now!

De-ornamenting. Better known as taking down the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Returning to whatever state of normalcy we live in the rest of the year.

We actually have 8 Christmas trees every year. Well, if you want to be technical there’s actually now 12, but the skinny white flamingo tree in the Florida room stays up all year with its clear mini lights and huge assortment of the various flamingo decorations we’ve collected over the years. And there are now three 2 foot little trees which are in the kitchen, our granddaughters’ guest bedroom, and my craft studio, but they only take a few minutes to take down. There’s also a lighted palm tree in the far corner of our family room, with its clear lights and eclectic collection of beach and a few extra flamingo ornaments that wouldn’t fit on the other tree, but we don’t count that one. (If you missed my blog series “Each Tree Has a Story” check it out to see all these trees in their full grlory!)

And yes, putting up all those trees is a lot of work, along with hanging the stockings, putting out the silk poinsettias, and decorating the foyer ledge in a holiday theme. It takes several days. But it was worth it. And it’s worth it every year.

Because there’s just something special about the beauty of Christmas decorations. The sparkling lights, the candles, the shiny ornaments on the trees, and the magnificent sight of so many homes lit up with colorful and imaginative lighted displays in front yards. It just gives each home a touch of brand new elegance, and when the only light in your living room or family room comes from that Christmas tree, it just feels different. Almost magical, with an air of expectancy. The perfect room for enjoying time with family and friends.

And then in all too short a time, it’s all over. It’s time to take everything down, pack it carefully away, and wait another year to bring it back and create those feelings all over again. Even thought taking it down is a bit quicker, it’s still an awful lot of work.

Many people say they’re done with it all the day after Christmas Day, and can’t wait to pull everything down and put things back the way they were. Before the decorating…before the transformation began…before the magical beauty entered their home and took over, just for an all too brief time. Maybe they just don’t feel that special sense of magic that some of us do.

I’m just the opposite. I dread taking down all the decorations. Not because of all the work involved, because my husband and I do it together as a team. But because I just don’t like giving up the sparkle…the glow…and the special feelings that all the decorations bring, not only to our home, but to our lives. There’s a special feeling in our home when all those trees are decorated and lighted that just appears for that one all-too-short time. I really can’t describe the feeling. But I know there are more of you out there that feel the same way.

A few of our friends have actually left their trees up and just changed the theme. One friend re-did hers as a winter tree with icicles, silver ornaments, and snowmen. Another friend re-did hers in a Mardi Gras theme. Well, I do keep our flamingo tree up year round, so i guess I’m right there with them.

Spending the weekend removing and carefully packing up ornaments was not fun. And we’re still not quite done. It wasn’t just all the tedious work involved in doing it. It was thinking about all the memories so many of those ornaments evoked. My grandmother’s glass birds that have survived over 100 Christmases still intact. The ornaments that graced my mother’s tree when she still put one up. The special ornaments memorializing my husband’s and my first Christmas together…our daughter’s first Christmas. And now our two granddaughters’ first Christmas ornaments, along with framed picture ornaments of our daughter’s wedding the grandchildren growing up, and their trips to see Santa Claus.

Now there are empty spots in our rooms where the trees were. Not literally, because the furniture we moved to make room for our Christmas trees is slowly going back into place. But it still takes while to have it feel “right” again. But it will. In a few weeks or so. And we’ll forget about all the beauty and “specialness” of those Christmas decorations until about ten months later until it’s time to start thinking about it again.

But then the cycle starts again as the next Christmas season approaches and we once again get to experience that special excitement, that magical feeling as the trees once again are dressed in their familiar splendor with, of course, a few new ornaments that we traditionally add every year.

Am I looking ahead already? Of course! Because I’m already looking forward to that special magic that starts to happen when we start putting it all back together again. And we don’t wait til after Thanksgiving any more to start decorating.

Or maybe we could even do Christmas in July? Maybe a beach themed masterpiece. Decorated shells and starfish…clear ornaments with sea glass and sand inside of them…some kind of beachy garland…maybe on a blue Christmas tree? What do you think? Who wants to help join in the fun?

Words Can Destroy

They can be spoken, or written, but once said, they cannot be unspoken or erased. Except if the written words weren’t delivered. And in most cases written words are sent in anger without a cooling down period. These written words are around as a lifetime reminder to be re-read many times over.

Spoken words said in anger hurt just as much. Once these words are said they can break a person and erase a relationship quicker than any illness.

They can be forgiven, but never forgotten. You can spend a lifetime saying you didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but the recipient always remembers those words exactly for what they were. 

Gingerbread House Fails Inspection

I really didn’t plan on having a second blog on this subject, at least not this Christas season.

Christmas may be over, but there are still a few stories left to tell.

But since I did buy those four little gingerbread house kits right before Thanksgiving, I thought, what the heck?!

And as you may have already guessed, it certainly wasn’t the greatest of Christmas projects. The granddaughters still had fun, as kids usually do. But Mom and Grandmom? Not so much.

I think I mentioned in my previous gingerbread story I’d ordered these cute gingerbread house kits on line because they weren’t in stock in the store. Not in any of the stores in our area. Being a regular online shopper, it shouldn’t have been a problem, right? Well, it wasn’t. Until we opened the first two kits and several pieces were broken. And of course they were the little reindeer gingerbread cookies that the younger granddaughter wanted to do, and the sparkly pink cottage the older one wanted to make.  And none of the stores had received any more.

So on to the set of the four small gingerbread chalets.  Shouldn’t be too bad, right? Actually they’re really cute. Right?

Notice I said there were FOUR of them. Yes, they were small, but what was I thinking when I ordered them? That was four times putting together houses, icing the walls and the roofs, making sure they all stayed “glued” together til the icing hardened…. Why did I do that? And yes, I was also thinking to myself, why weren’t THESE the ones that were broken?

As you’ve guessed, the construction job is left to me. My daughter doesn’t have the patience. She and her daughters like the decorating part.

So being the good grandmother that I am, I set out to construct the FOUR little houses. Which came in a block of pieces that needed to be (carefully) broken apart in order to make the house.  And I do have to confess, I almost wanted them to break in the wrong places so I’d have an excuse not to put them together. But being a good grandmother, I separated the pieces carefully, and none of them broke. Would it be wrong of me to say “unfortunately”? Yeah, probably.

Actually, three out of the four went together fairly easy. It was that last one with the funky side roof that didn’t. If you look carefully, the roof sort of has a gap in it.  Which was filled in with a lot of the “snow” icing, which will most likely cause it to fall in. Our son in law said it most certainly failed the final building inspection! (I’m not even sure it had a building permit to start!)

But I guess the other three don’t look all that bad. At least the girls had fun decorating them, and getting almost as many candy decorations and sprinkles on the floor as they did on the houses.

Of course, as luck would have it, when we returned the broken kits, the cashier told us they had pre-assembled gingerbread houses in the Christmas department which only needed the icing and candy decorations to be added to it. Well…….let me tell you how quickly we bought one of those!

You certainly don’t think I’d try to make one from scratch, do you? After all, these were difficult enough!

And even better, guess whose job it was to help his daughters decorate that house! And Daddy did a really good job!  I think we have a new assignment for him next Christmas. Why not?

Are You continuing or Complaining

It’s been a rough almost two years. And I’d promised myself I wouldn’t write something like this when I started writing again.

But I can’t help it. I have to say this.

From early 2020 til now we’ve seen the world, and our country, thrown into chaos the likes of which we’ve never known. Oh, we heard the stories from those who lived through food rationing, the depression, and world wars, but we never ever thought we’d see anything similar.

We were insulated from such things. We were used to having things just as we wanted, when we wanted. Store shelves were overflowing, grocery stores were fully stocked, employees and employees were enjoying prosperity. Kids complained about going to school as kids will do, but they went and they were taught by a lot of great teachers surrounded by their friends.

We weren’t hesitant to go out to eat,  go shopping, to the movies, go to baseball or football games, or fly across the country or even overseas. 

Life was good. Life wasn’t perfect, but we weren’t wondering if tomorrow would bring disaster to our way of life. We went along with our lives, as if nothing bad could ever touch us.

Then suddenly, everything changed.

A new virus we couldn’t see started making its way to other countries. It sickened those who caught it, sometimes for weeks, and began killing many others who caught it. Some people that caught it still experience lasting side effects from it. A pandemic hit us, and we weren’t prepared.

We were told it wouldn’t come here, not to worry, it was a hoax. It’ll just go away and life will be as it always was. Well, that hoax has killed how many of us in this country? Over 820.000 I believe was the last count I heard, but it changes hourly.

That’s 820,000+ families who were forever changed and yes, devastated by loss, by this microscopic potential killer. No, it doesn’t kill everyone who gets it, but a large percentage of our population is at risk for potentially disastrous results if they contract it. My husband being one of them because of his breathing problems and cardiac history. Even for those without underlying medical conditions, life can suddenly change for the worse, and have repercussions for the rest of their lives.

As the pandemic raged across our country and the world, hard decisions were made. Certain businesses were mandated to close because of possible contagion. People were suddenly without incomes, many had little or no savings. Newly unemployed people struggled to maintain their lives, feed their families, and pay their bills. It was a bad time for so many. Many of us were fortunate enough to transition to working remotely rather going to our offices. I did, and I’m still doing it. I actually enjoy it now, and I get more accomplished.

But many just complained that they couldn’t go to the gym, get their hair cut and styled. They couldn’t go to a movie. There were no baseball or football games to go to in person. Couldn’t go out to eat because so many restaurants had to close and only do carry out. It wasn’t fair! It was an inconvenience! Just for a little virus you couldn’t see that might make you sick! How dare the government tell us what to do!?

They never stopped to think about those thousands of people out of work because of it who were struggling. Or families who were losing loved ones because of it.

They never stopped to think about the healthcare workers who were suddenly trying to cope with an illness the likes of which they’d never seen, working extra long hours with little or no sleep and trying to save lives of people they didn’t even know. And putting themselves at risk as well. “Oh well,” people said, “it’s their job. They signed up for it, so they just need to do it; they’re getting paid!”

They never stopped to think about the people who got the virus and suffered and died because of it. “So what?” they said. “People die every day. Why do we all have to be inconvenienced?”

Grocery stores ran out of cleaning supplies and paper goods. Many people hoarded what supplies they could get. They fought over paper towels and toilet paper. “It isn’t fair! This is America, and we’re not supposed to have bad things happen. We’re supposed to be able to get everything we want when we want it!”

And unless the virus touched their lives personally, unless someone they loved contracted it and died, they complained about having to take precautions, with many refusing to comply. Many refusing an approved vaccine because “the government is trying to force me and it’s just another way to try and control me! I have my rights! I have freedom to do what I want! It’s my body!”

Yes, it’s your body. Do what you want. But don’t infringe on my choice of staying safe. You can be walking around carrying the virus, and give it to me, even though I’ve been vaccinated. And that can be spread to others whose immune systems can’t handle it.

It began to, and in many ways still does, divide this country and families in ways we never expected. 

My husband and I, and many of our friends, are fully vaccinated and boosted. Why? Because we don’t want to take the risk. We don’t want to potentially get this thing and spread it to someone who could die from it. I don’t want to risk my husband getting it. And I don’t look at it as if, “oh well, he’s going to die from something.” I want us to prevent that as long as possible. And if I hear one more person say something like that, I think I will scream in their face.

This pandemic has sadly become a political issue more than a health issue. And I’m tired of it being that way. Not everything in this country is a political statement. And just because you personally haven’t been affected yet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Because we personally know far too many people who it has affected, several of whom who have died. Far more frightening are the number of people who are getting this and have already been vaccinated.  Yes, they are experiencing milder cases of it than those who haven’t been vaccinated, but they are still becoming infected, and still needing medical care for their illness. And it concerns me daily that even with my fully vaccinated husband being careful and wearing his mask almost everywhere he goes, that he could still contract it.

Somewhere along the way we’ve lost part of our humanity; our concern for others. That thing about “love your neighbor as yourself?” To paraphrase a popular saying, it’s just a “thing” now. It really doesn’t mean much to many people who’d rather criticize and complain because their lives and the world have changed, and it’s inconvenient for some of us.

I am not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, but if this makes you uncomfortable, maybe there’s a reason for it. 

You have your own ideas and beliefs, but when your beliefs and ideas put me and my family at risk, I do have a problem with that. And I can choose how to handle it. And I choose not to go around those of you who are not vaccinated.  I also choose to ask if you or others who are possibly going to be around us at a function have been vaccinated, and we will determine at that time if we want to take the risk or not. It’s not personally against you; It’s personal  because we choose to play it safe.

May all of us one day soon be able to return to life sort of as we knew it before Covid. May we stop being divided and come back together as families and friends, and not enemies because we see things differently. May we learn to care about others’ feelings and beliefs rather than condemn and denigrate those who don’t agree with us.

By this time many of you who are/were our friends will have decided to un-friend us, and that’s ok, too. If you cannot handle our feelings, and cannot accept our feelings, then it’s ok. You’re entitled. So are we.

However, we are continuing to try and stay safe. We continue to use our masks in public places. And will become more diligent with those with who we are still friends with. And we are choosing to stay safe rather than risk our lies and others’ lives as well.

Stay well, and stay safe.

When a Person Shows You Their True Colors

…don’t try to repaint them.

Because actions speak louder than words. They may try to convince you that they care, but do their actions show they do? They say how much they care about you, but never reach out.

Instead of making excuses for their behavior try to understand who they really are. And why. Self-centered? Thinking they’re better than others because their views are the only ones that matter, and they don’t want to hear yours.

Don’t try to repaint them, because the paint won’t stick.

Leaving Behind

As 2021 is still not a distant enough memory, I’m thinking about those from 2021 who will no longer be in our lives for 2022.

The ones who don’t agree with us, who don’t like our political views, and disagree on other matters we won’t even address. Who cannot handle it when we speak our feelings.

We will miss you, but we will not compromise on our principles and beliefs any more than you will. And our viewpoint is just as important to us as yours is to you. If years of friendship cannot withstand opposing views, and we cannot agree to peacefully disagree, then we didn’t have a true friendship in the first place.

It hurts, but we’ll get through it.