Heart/wrecked

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Like a ship that runs aground because of low tide or unseen rocks or fog or navigational errors, our beautiful heart can be damaged when blood flow is restricted or when it flows unregulated.

Heart/wrecked.

I grew up hearing the term, “Stress kills.”

I was never quite sure what that meant, but then I did when it happened to me.

After a seemingly nonstop barrage of a personal stressful situation–like a ship hitting the rocks over and over again–it all finally took an undeniable toll on my physical health.

One of my favorite places to live is in the state of Denial, but I’ve been forced to temporarily move to a new town called Reality. Hopefully, I’ll just visit there for a bit until I can come home again.

After experiencing some intermittent and strangely terrifying heart pains, I went to the doc who took my blood pressure and was concerned about the results. It was super high. I had always had enviably LOW blood pressure since I exercise regularly, am vegan and never smoked, so this raised concerns.

Over the course of a couple weeks, my BP was checked daily and it stayed consistently high; dangerously high, which only made me more anxious and more stressed, and at one of the office visits, I started hyperventilating and had a panic attack. (Super embarrassing for the doc and absolutely mortifying for me.)

This led to an order for an Echocardiogram along with all the other heart-focused tests. The echo was done at a local hospital–a definite trigger. No one wants to go to a hospital at any time, but especially during Covid. It seemed like I was being admitted, with a wrist band and lots of little stickers, and I was devastated.

I almost bolted out of the front door at that point, but I persevered. I can share with you that it’s a scary time when you have to figure out why you don’t feel great. I’ve been a medical advocate for several loved ones, but it’s radically more difficult when you have to care for yourself. Poor me.

The technician was amazing, especially considering I tormented her with a million questions. I know enough about medical stuff to see that she was concentrating on a certain area of my heart. I really appreciated her patience with me and her detailed explanations during the hour-long ordeal.

The results showed a dilated aortic root valve and regurgitation of the mitral valve.

Risk Adjustment Coding Academy- Coding Focus

What this means is that the accumulation of stress and panic attacks and PTSD that I’ve endured during the last four years manifested medically and physically and caused structural damage to my heart.

Mitral valve regurgitation - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic

“Severe physical or emotional stress increases blood pressure to the point where the tensile limit of the aortic tissue is overwhelmed, causing the rupture.”

“Over time, certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, can cause your heart to work harder, gradually enlarging your heart’s left ventricle.”

“Mitral valve regurgitation can cause complications such as atrial fibrillation, in which the atria of the heart don’t contract well. This leads to increased risk of stroke. Also, elevated blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary artery hypertension).”

Hypertension makes the blood push harder against the valve and causes it to dilate, enlarge, and that’s pretty much the same scenario for the mitral valve, which seems to be the cause of the intermittent chest pain.

I’ll need to be monitored regularly because if I can’t control the stress/blood pressure and the valves stretch to a dangerous size, the only solution is surgical intervention–or death.

Reducing stress and hypertension can possibly keep the valves from enlarging any further, but the damage is done–nothing will make them reduce in size back to normal, except surgery.

Let me tell you that it’s true. Stress kills.

Now I’m off to change course, take some magnesium, eat more beets, meditate, calm down and regulate my breathing so that I don’t have a stroke or an aneurysm.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Heart/wrecked.

Shipwrecked.

Binge Worthy: The Hour

A while back, I recommended Scott & Bailey, an awesome TV show, and now I have another British series to share.

My London-born DIL had never heard of The Hour and now she’s hooked, too.

Sadly, it seems that there are only two seasons, but it’s well worth watching.

The Hour stars Dominic West who also portrays Prince Charles in the current season of The Crown. I’m not sure I agree with this casting as PC, but I’m happy he got the part because he’s an amazing actor.

It’s about the early years of the BBC, or as my DIL calls it, the “Beebs”.

From IMDB: “A behind-the-scenes drama and espionage thriller in Cold War-era England that centers on a journalist, a producer, and an anchorman for an investigative news programme.”

I found it on PBS and Amazon Prime, but it’s on Acorn too. Whatever you have to do to be able to watch it, do it! Trust me, you’ll love it as much as we do.

I hope to see Dominic West in more starring roles; he’s WONDERFUL.

Welcome December in Haiku, Quote, and Song

Another month, another season, another year gone!
Where did the time go?

I wrote a spur-of-the-moment haiku to celebrate the first of December. While it was sunny and a balmy eighty degrees last week, the weather since turned cold and overcast and I’m freezing. My creative writing professor should be happy that I can still turn out a passable 5-7-5.

On this gloomy day
Slate sky; the clouds heavily
Pregnant with iced rain.

Dr. Seuss wrote this about December, too…

“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

Joni Mitchell and The Circle Game, all about seasons. It’s definitely the mood of the day.

Passionflower

I wish I knew why this passionflower vine stopped growing; it’s one of my favorites.

Did you know that passionflower offers healing properties? I’ve never tried it, but according to Dr. Andrew Weil, passionflower is used for stress reduction, calming without sedation, and overcoming insomnia when combined with other calming herbs such as valerian and lemon balm.

Studies suggest that passionflower may reduce anxiety in patients undergoing surgery. Another study found that passionflower had similar affects as an anti-anxiety medication in reducing general anxiety. The properties in passionflower are thought to promote calming effects by increasing the levels of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which reduces the activity of some neurons that cause anxiety.

Disclaimer: DO NOT take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. For others, passionflower is generally considered to be safe and nontoxic in recommended doses and for less than two months at a time.

Listen | Wisdom

Since I don’t like to celebrate Thanksgiving the way most people do, I’m inclined to honor the indigenous peoples.

As I read more and more historical documentation about how Native Americans were treated, I’m saddened and disgusted by the cruelty of those that came to rape and pillage their homeland and their women.

Listen to the wind,
it talks.
Listen to the silence,
it speaks.
Listen to your heart,
it knows.
(Native American proverb)

Giving Thanks

In Hawaiian culture it is said that each person is born with a bowl of light.

This light is the light of consciousness and love.

Each time we give way to negative emotions such as jealousy or hate, a stone appears in the bowl and the light is diminished.

Sometimes it seems that the weight of the accumulated stones will extinguish the light forever.

Hawaiian spiritual teachers say it is always possible to tip the bowl over, empty the stones, and live again in the embrace of the miraculous light we were gifted at birth.

For more on this beautiful concept, read The Bowl of Light by Hank Wesselman. In 1996, a revered Hawaiian elder befriended an American anthropologist, and from their rare and intimate rapport, something miraculous emerged. Through the words and teachings of the kahuna wisdom-keeper Hale Makua, Dr. Wesselman was gifted with an enhanced perspective into the sacred knowledge of ancient Hawaii.

Info curated from https://www.facebook.com/burt.kempner

Deception

Don’t let these gently flowing fronds in this photo deceive you.

Pampas grass is invasive and chokes out the growth of beneficial California native plants. This out of control stand of grass invaded all the scorched earth from the big fire in Carlsbad almost two years ago. Visit the link for that post: https://enchantedseashells.com/2021/01/20/fire-in-carlsbad/

Interesting fact: Pampas grass is not illegal in the United States, though it is illegal in Australia and carries a $10,000 fine.

Pampas grass is a quickly growing grass that forms massive clumps along roadsides, steep cliffs, river banks, and open areas that have been disturbed by human activities or natural disturbances. Introduced to Santa Barbara, California in 1848 by nursery operators, pampas grass has spread all over the state, threatening native plants and the animals that rely on them.

An individual pampas grass stand can produce millions of seeds annually that travel several miles, and because these grasses are very tolerant of intense sunlight, drought, and frost, they are very efficient at establishing in many habitat types. Due to the fact that pampas grass can live over a decade, it has become a favorable plant for people to grow in their gardens.

Invasive plants such as pampas grass displace native plants and create habitats that are lower in biodiversity. Furthermore, pampas grass has leaf blades that are highly undesirable as food or shelter to birds and other wildlife, and can actually cause physical harm to those animals, including humans, because the leaves are extremely sharp. Therefore, it is important that we do our part by not planting pampas grass in our gardens, but instead plant native plants that are comparably beautiful and provide the same utility.

Native Alternative: Giant Wildrye (Elymus condensatus)

Giant wildrye is a grass that, like pampas grass, forms dense stands in a variety of different soils. It remains green year-round and is drought tolerant, but will also survive in regularly watered locations, meaning little maintenance is required to keep this grass looking great in your garden throughout the changing seasons. Giant wildrye has beautiful blue-gray or dark green leaves that are topped by clusters of yellow flowers during the summer and although this grass prefers full sunlight, it can also tolerate shady locations.

Unlike pampas grass, Giant wildrye is native to California and does not readily outcompete other native plants for resources such as space, light, and nutrients. It also spreads slowly compared to pampas grass, and therefore, it is much easier to contain within your garden fences. Furthermore, while pampas grass is not desirable to most animal species, Giant wildrye attracts various birds that enjoy their seeds.

Giant wildrye is a great native alternative to invasive pampas grass because it provides the same beauty and utility in your garden, but unlike pampas grass, it contributes to higher biodiversity and does not negatively impact the natural environment or those animal species that rely on it. Try out this native plant alternative in your garden today!

For more information on any of the topics above, please contact the Native Plant Program at nativeplants@wildlife.ca.gov.

From: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Plants/Dont-Plant-Me/Pampas-Grass

Left Behind

I don’t know if it was Freud or someone else who said that there was an underlying subliminal reason why someone leaves things behind at your home, but in the case of my Angels, I love it when they do.

I find and gather up the artifacts to either mail or bring with me on my next visit. They’re like little treasures that attach themselves to memories of a special time.

Thank goodness I didn’t step barefoot on a fierce Ninjago Lego minifigure. I had found another one and mailed it along with random socks and a forgotten light up ball that had rolled under the sofa, but this little guy was exhumed when I changed the sheets and I recalled the morning Angel Boy crawled into bed with me at about 6am.

“Grandma, are you awake? Daddy said I could come down. He’s going surfing.”
“Look at my Legos.This is one of the Ninjagos, LOOK!” “He’s one of my favorites.” “Grandma, can you make me a Ninjago cake?” “You can do it, I know you can.”

“I don’t know, T. I can do a kitty or an owl or a bunny, but a Ninjago cake seems pretty difficult for me.”

“Did you wash my favorite (Ninjago) shirt for me?”

“It’s a bit early for me to handwash your favorite shirt, T. How about breakfast first?”

“Grandma, do you always do the same things every single time you wake up?”

“What’s that, T? What do I do?”

“You put on your glasses, take off your retainers, take a vitamin, and do your inhaler. And then you make coffee.”

“You know what, Angel? That’s exactly what I do, in exactly that order. You are incredibly observant to remember each and every detail. I do those same things every single day at your house and my house. Do you think about that?”

“Yes, I do. I’m hungry. Can I have some apple pie?”

The answer to that was yes. The children know me too well. I approve of apple pie for early breakfast. I wrapped a piece for dad to eat before his dawn patrol surf sesh, too.

Those Angels leave a trail of love behind, that’s the best part.

To See the Good

I parked my car (and made sure I knew where it was this time hahahaha). As I was gathering my shopping bags, I overheard a young-ish man with a baby sitting in a shopping cart as he was talking to his significant other.

He asked her if she needed any snacks, sweet or savory, and told her he loved her at least half a dozen times during the short walk to the grocery store, as we were headed in the same direction. The last thing he said was, “We’ll be home soon.”

I gathered from that brief exchange that she was probably pregnant and suffering from first trimester morning sickness. He was genuine, sweet, kind, obviously empathetic and caring.

I grabbed a cart as he stopped to disinfect his; the little girl caught my eye and said, “Hi!” I responded back to her, “Hello, sweetie!” She pointed to my mask (def wearing everywhere as I’m still recovering from pneumonia) and I nodded, “Yes, I’m wearing a mask.”

Her dad reiterated, “Yes, she is wearing a mask, my love.

That’s exactly how I refer to the Angels, so I told him he was a great dad; more dads should be like him. He thanked me and kissed his baby girl. She waved to me and we continued on our individual shopping journeys.

There are still good people in this world and that warms my heart.

Santa Fe, Turquoise, and Zozobra

I always thought “turquoise” was the most delicious word to wrap my tongue around. So much is going on with its delightful twists and turns.

Some summers saw us travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico to spend time with family who lived in an adorable adobe house. I loved it there. It was dusty and hot and full of colors and sounds and smells that we didn’t have in Detroit.

Our family has a long history in Santa Fe. Before and during WW2, my parents used to hang out in Taos with Georgia O’Keeffe and D.H. Lawrence. I wish I could remember more of their fascinating stories but I was an extremely obnoxious eye-rolling teen and ignored mostly everything they ever said. About anything, haha.

During those trips to Santa Fe, of course I had to have an elaborate fiesta dress and lots of turquoise jewelry. This was probably when I first fell in love with this exquisite rock. I surely wish I still had my little fiesta dresses for Angel Girl, but all I have is my mom’s dress.

We would go to La Fonda and the Plaza where the Native Americans spread their treasures on blankets and we’d spend hours walking around.

This isn’t very PC but one day a little girl yelled at her mom and pointed to me and said, “Look at her, mommy! That’s a real Indian girl!” I always thought that was the coolest thing although I’m sure it was because I was very tan from being outside all day (no sunscreen back then) and my hair was plaited in two long braids.

Sometimes we’d be there for Fiesta and the Burning of Zozobra, an event to dispel the hardships and travails of the past year. Zozobra is the creation of Will Shuster, one of Los Cinco Pintores, a group of artists who made their way to New Mexico in the 1920s. Shuster’s creation first burned in his backyard in 1924 as a 6-foot effigy, and over the years, has grown to a towering 50-foot high marionette.

Photos of Santa Fe from SantaFeSelection.com

Somewhere there’s a photo of me (with pigtails) standing on the steps just beneath the not-yet-burned Zozobra but I couldn’t locate it. When I do, I’ll update this post.

UPDATE: My memory was inaccurate! This is a photo I was thinking of, but it wasn’t me, it’s my older brother and my parents, way before I was born…

Another photo, during another summer visit in Santa Fe with Zozobra…

The Burning of Zozobra has been called the first Burning Man, but I don’t like the comparison at all as the intentions of the two events are lightyears apart.

Every Little Thing

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

Although I never before knew who originally created this quote, I always KNEW — deep in my heart — that a rainbow or a sunset or a whale, a Monarch butterfly, the sighting of a coyote or a bobcat, my hawks — the discovery of a rock or achingly perfect seashell — brings joy as much as a new Chanel or a stunningly crafted pair of heels.

The night when I was genuinely poorly, when I ALMOST thought I’d have to go to the ER, I was awakened by the conversational hooting of a couple of Great Horned Owls and felt comforted by their voices. In my feverish delirium, I believed they were telling me to hang on, it’ll be OK.

Thank goodness, they told the truth. As much as antibiotics bring their own set of issues with my little body (don’t ask), I’m on the road to recovery, as my RN mom would say.

This morning I have SUCH a strong desire for vegan hot chocolate, it made me think of her and start laughing. Simple joys, right?

When I was sick, as soon as I had a craving for anything chocolate, my mom said her nursey training told her all she needed to know to stop worrying about me.

I fully earned the title of Princess because I used to make her wear her nursey cap and drape her stethoscope around her neck when she answered the bell that was on my nightstand. And she happily complied while carrying a tray with ice chips, fresh flowers, and tea in the special antique porcelain tea pot.

At the end of the day, little things are undeniably all there is. Those of us who understand this surely are the lucky ones.