So Long, 2017…

Winter Greetings!

This isn’t a blog post about a gal who just turned 40 and it isn’t going to tell you to eat this, not that, to meditate for this long and do yoga this many times a week.

This post is about the year in which I turned 40 and how I intend to make the best of the next 40, so awesome that the year in which I turn 80 a sequel must be written.

This is not just a year in review.  I torture people with those one-pagers with a handful of photos every Christmas card season, but not this year.  More on that later.

This is an “I can’t believe all of this shit happened AND it’s not even mid-December.”

So, let’s work backwards….

In December I had to  have my nose cauterized twice after some majorly long and disgusting nosebleeds, but enough about that.

On November 14th I received a message via the “patient portal.” Heaven forbid the doctor’s office, nurse or nurse practitioner call you herself.  It’s the doctor’s office way of communicating in 2017 – you log in to the portal with yet another username password combination you either forget every time, or have memorized so you don’t have to – and read a lot of medical jargon that ends with: “looks like fibrosis of the liver, let’s draw more bloodwork and scan again in a year.” Fabulous. 

Wait!! I am barely a drinker so nothing, and I mean nothing, should be wrong with my liver of all things.  Come on, I drove the sober ride home program for all four years of college.  What??

October was chock full of a jaunt to the Mayo Clinic full of three days of testing, four flights total and all to be told “Well, you’re not worse, but you are no better either!” Again, what?
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In late July I found myself back to work “fully part-time” as Do More with LES has returned to the real estate world and I am a Team Assistant to The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates, which is where I began my real estate career, so I feel I’ve returned “home” – every pun intended.  Doing a little bit of everything from meeting the contractors, to coordinating the mass mailing of 288 holiday gifts to satisfied buyers, sellers and referrers.  I am loving it!  Looking to buy or sell your dream home in 2018, give us a call, the team is absolutely terrific! (And I don’t get paid to put that here!)

Skipping around a bit, in late May, early June, after Mayo but before Aunt Betty’s passing, I snuck down to Orlando, Florida to attend the Adult Congenital Heart Association’s annual conference.  This was precisely the break I needed.  Let me back up a little more.
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Father’s Day weekend in June I spent holding vigil at the Montgomery Hospice, a place I pass a thousand times and think “oh the sadness that must come out of that place.” That weekend I lived it. I was there for and with my dear Aunt Betty, just as she was present practically every single time I landed in a hospital throughout my entire life. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I was there or why, but I know she knew.  She could not have asked to have been surrounded by more love and laughter.  As awful as was the outcome was, our family had a lot of fun and laughs reminiscing that weekend.
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In May, departing on Mother’s Day together with my mother, I made the journey to the medical mecca that is the Mayo Clinic for the first time.  I prefaced the news when telling friends that I was headed there with “yeah, no kid born with a congenital heart defect wants to “grow up” to be “so sick” that she has to go to the Mayo Clinic,” but – I was flattered and excited and nervous and anxious to get there as the place has an excellent reputation.  To say it met and exceeded our expectations is an absolute understatement.  The travel logistics aside, the city of “Rah Rah Rochester,” Minnesota is beautiful.  Friendly people, a lot of history and great blue skies made it just awesome.  We spent Mother’s Day as tourists in Ubers, on trolleys and mostly on foot.  It is hard not to want to exercise when it’s so pretty there and you are there to meet with cardiologists after all!

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April was it, the start to the year that I was turning 40.  I was born in 1977 on Easter Sunday.  My birthday brings in springtime and the most gorgeous time of year.  This year my birthday was on a weekday, so we partied the Sunday prior which was Palm Sunday.  I didn’t want a big bash, I hate surprises, and I don’t drink so my husband put together a small brunch at a great venue in the restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner, overlooking the water in Alexandria.  I bought a new dress online, and it fit, so party we did!

Lucky me!  Everyone I wanted to be surrounded by was there to celebrate with me.  Friends, colleagues, my college “sweetheart,” two brothers, friends and their cute kids, a brother from another mother, even my dear friend and client who had just had her hip replaced!  And at the very end, my friend who is a priest and her wife showed up, complete with collar and palms!  Just a terrific morning!

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That afternoon we went straight to the hospital to visit my grandfather.  I thought he would want to see me that dressed up, so off we went!  He was as fine as could be, albeit a bandaged arm from a failed surgery attempt, and he said “Hey, sorry I missed your party!” I laughed and shrugged it off and gave him the okay and my forgiveness.  I knew he would have been there if the situation were different. It was that day that the nurses told his daughters and me, only because I was hovering, that it was time to call in hospice and that he would likely not return home.

Well, having the nurse mother I do, that nurse was mistaken. He returned to his condo under hospice care, surrounded by his three daughters, me and his wife.  He passed just a few days later.  Selfishly, I am glad it was not on my birthday, as I’m not sure I would have ever recovered from that. I am blessed to have been close by in his final hours and playing a role in overseeing his best loved ones saying their goodbyes. 

It was an hour or two after shift change…  We had Comfort as our overnight aide tending to Grandpa as his daughters and granddaughter slept on the living room floor around his bed.  We shared good stories and lots of laughs and looking back it seemed to over too soon.  Then, of course, the real work began.

Grandpa had family far and wide and friends all across this great country.  He was a terrific, honorable and noble man who could charm anyone in his path, whether in uniform at the U.S. Capitol or in his scooter zipping around his condo.  Always a collared shirt, always a smile, and most definitely always a good story.  He is sorely missed.
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For a week in January, Inauguration week, to be exact, my husband took a week of vacation days that were dubbed “use or lose.”  Then he was called in for a very important meeting.  Ironically it was the same day that I had stayed home sick.  I came home early from work and he was headed in.  Then, just like that, he returned home, threw a glossy folder down on the end table next to the couch where I was conked out.  That was it.  Bam!  All he said was “February 10th will be my last day.”  Holy schnikes, WHAT?!  Yeah – so that was pretty much the beginning of our 2017, the end of frivolous spending and the reason there’s no glossy photo collage of his sweet daughter and our sweet dog! (but if there were, it would look like this!)

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Sneaking in one more months’ worth of newsworthy fun, I did participate in the Women’s March on January 21st with my mom, sister, cousins, friends and millions of other fabulous females, and let’s not forget Fallopia herself!

All in all, what a year! I still have my health. I have new friends & old and very dear friends and family far and wide. I know many who are fighting too many battles and many fighting the good fight.  Despite all of this I really do try and find silver lining.  So, it goes without saying, no fun picture-filled card this year.  Nothing too personal.  All the very best to you and yours.  I hope your elf has remembered to relocate all these crazy nights and I hope your way is lit by all eight candles this Hanukkah season & I hope Santa finds his way down your chimney.

Here’s to a peaceful and positive 2018 for ALL!

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32!

If I turned 40 in April, that can only mean that my “ticker” turns 32 today!

For 32 years, my St. Jude mitral valve has been ticking in the center of my heart.  Providing me daily with life, questions, breath, joy and wonder.  And sometimes, rhythm.

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Placed by Dr. Frank Midgley on October 30, 1985 and by medical miracle, still functioning today in 2017 – I mean, come on, doesn’t 1985 seem pretty long ago?  You wouldn’t drive a car from 1985 these days, would you?!  I’m ecstatic to still be tickin’ today.  I think of Dr. Midgley often, every time I go to a cardiologist appointment and as 10/30 gets closer and closer each year.  My parents and I are eternally grateful for his expertise.  

2017, in keeping with the jinx that I dislike odd-numbered years, has not been great, but today, 10/30, I focus on finding joy in the medical miracle that I carry around with me everywhere I go and listen to every night after a long day.

It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’!

Today I am donating $32 to the Adult Congenital Heart Association, because babies like me who have successful procedures like I did on 10/30/1985 grow up to be thriving, successful adults and need continued care and research, too.  Hope you’ll consider donating along with me.

So, what’s so big about 32?

Well it’s Matt Weiters jersey number.  He plays for the 2017 NLDS Champion Washington Nationals!

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It’s also the jersey number of the New York Yankees’ first black player, Elston Howard, and L.A. Dodger & famous Jewish pitcher, Sandy Koufax & the LA Lakers’, Magic Johnson!  Come on, you knew there’d be sports references!

 

Thanks for following along.

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Is anyone else ugly crying this year?

OK here it is – virtual “talk” therapy.  I can’t stop crying lately – I mean, at the drop of a hat, ugly cry – crying!  2017 has sucked.  Didn’t we say all of this back in 2013?

First, my grandfather passed away – he was hands down my biggest (ok, & oldest!) cheerleader from way back and until the end.  Terribly sad.  On my dad’s birthday, and just 3 days after my 40th.  I got 40 great years with Grandpa and he lived to see 90.  But still…heartbreaking.

Then, my dear Aunt Betty (Grandpa’s only sister) passed away just two months and three days later.  It’s like they were besties in real life and wanted to be together in heaven, too.  She was with me and by my side my whole life and thru every hospitalization, so it was only fair that I stuck with her til the end.  Weird how things work.

Now, Jim Vance has passed as of this weekend.  Saturday morning, first thing over coffee, breaking news alert, terrible.  Such a sad hard way to start the weekend.  It’s like time stopped and we had to keep asking “Really?  For Real?  Jim Vance died?  Really?”

I am forced to agree with his colleague Pat Collins here when I say, “I thought he’d never die!”  Grrrrr.

It takes me right back to my dear Great-Grandmother’s living room (Ma, Grandpa & Aunt Betty’s mom).  These were days before the remote and at 6 p.m. sharp it was time to change the channel to “Jim and Doreen” on the TV on the cart in the corner of the living room.  You know, the safe place at your great-grandmother’s house where all of the games and toys are safely tucked underneath.  I miss her terribly, too.  She would hate to have to have seen her kids struggle at the end of their lives like they did, BUT she was also a HUGE (not to quote 45 or anything) fan of Jim Vance.  She lived a stone’s throw from the NBC4 studios and would call in if a typo appeared (ahem!) or if a hair was out of place or an outfit clashed.  She, too, would hate that Jim Vance is no longer on the airwaves. 

I feel as though it’s an ultimate “over”.  We watched him together, we talked about all of the NBC family on our first date.  Ma wasn’t at my wedding. It’s literally like the end of an era.  So many good ones gone.

Jim Vance was welcomed into any and every home I spent dinnertime in growing up.  Our house, Ma’s house, Grandpa’s House, Aunt Betty’s house, and now …my marital home.  Just doesn’t seem real.

I mean to say – we love you Jim Handly, we are glad you’re there, Leon Harris, and Doreen, you’re an amazing woman to have gone live on the air at 6:00 that Saturday night.  I cried the whole 30 minutes.  Jim was an amazing man and is watching over you, and all of NBC Washington & D.C. always.  I delivered a bouquet with my mom to the NBC Studio Sunday morning and stated they were for you and hope they brought at least a little bit of a smile.

Enjoy the ride, Jim Vance as we’ve enjoyed having you in our lives!

With Love & Gratitude,

Just lil ole Lauren, on behalf of all of Washington

Fave clips of Jim compilations thus far, also difficult, as there are so many…

Jim & George:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Jim-Vance-Laughs-as-Model-Falls-on-Runway_Washington-DC-263327011.html

Nationals Honor Vance:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/National-Honor-Jim-Vance-With-Moment-of-Silence_Washington-DC-436612493.html

Barbara Harrison Remembers:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Barbara-Harrison-on-Jim-Vances-Legacy-in-DC_Washington-DC-436387733.html?t=6

Vance’s Last Story:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Jim-Vances-Final-Story-Inside-the-NMAAHC_Washington-DC-436391343.html?t=2

 

My Time At Mayo

“No kid ever wants to be ‘so sick’ that they have to go to the Mayo Clinic.”

This was my immediate reaction when my cardiologist told me that she didn’t quite know what more to do with me.  So, she sent my medical record to Mayo, Mayo accepted me, and I was on my merry way.

Having “been there, done that” and with Mayo in my rear view, I can honestly say now that I’m so glad I had a reason (and referral) to go there.  I was honored and flattered that they wanted to see me, but even those feelings still felt wrong.  I thought maybe, worst case, I’d become a good research project for them to use, or maybe I’d (hoping) get ‘laughed out’ of the place and sent home.

All of that was true.  I was a good patient for students to study and take pictures of.  I failed a stress test with flying colors, but, despite that, I was sent home with no surgery. Instead, for now, I got an educational wake-up call about self-care and the Rx for Cardiac Rehabilitation.  The heart is the biggest muscle in our body and we should work it out.  This was a good lesson and a wake-up call – perhaps to all who are reading this.

If I may overshare (and I may, this is my blog!), I have weighed the most ever as of late and I am not proud of that.  I told the doctor this.  I said I don’t feel like “my old self” and clearly maybe that’s due to my heart feeling so irregular lately.  We could all benefit from a little cardio, it’s fair to say.  I am working with my local at-home cardiologist to get started right away.  I was told I need 30 minutes 5 days a week. Valid. Fair. “Only going to happen if you schedule it, and like most women, you’ll take care of everyone else first, and forget YOU, and I hate that that’s what’s happening so much these days!”  Direct quote, stated in a beautiful British accent, from my Mayo cardiologist.

So – I’ve been to the Mecca of Medicine, the Promised Land of all things Medically Possible, and I’ve learned a good hard lesson.  From here on out it’s Priority: ME!

This is going to be very difficult, as those of you who know and love me know:  But…. with the cheering section that I have, all things are possible!  Now, off I go.


(For pictures from my fabulous few days in Rochester, please click here!)

The April That Was…

So much has happened I’m ready for April to be over.  Or am I?

In keeping up traditions: The first Monday in April started with Opening Day – friends, baseball & a Curly W!  Does it get any better?


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The next Monday I turned 40 brunching the day before with dear friends and loving family members. 

I thought 40 would feel different and be such a big deal, but I think my making a big deal out of birthdays is over, finally!
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My dad’s birthday is just after mine – I came home from the hospital on his 30th birthday, so that means if it was the big 4-0 for me, it was the large 7-0 for him!  We threw him quite the party with a few friends from far away and his brother as an added surprise!  That was fun to pull off!

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But on my dad’s actual birthday, I was with my mom’s dad, my dear Grandpa, as he passed away peacefully at his apartment with his wife, his daughters and I (and helpful hospice folks, who can’t go unmentioned) at his side.

I cannot believe we are now busy chronicling a life of 90 years well-lived and will be celebrating them on Tuesday, May 2nd.

The obituary my mother and I wrote for his local paper, the Falls Church News-Press can be read here:  FCNP on Trollinger


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Proud & Happy Grandpa @ U of M Convocation  Go Blue!

Last weekend I traveled to Providence, RI to become a god-mother for the second time.  My oldest god-daughter has turned 18 and gotten into college and is about to graduate from high school.  Where does the time go?  She was born when I was in college!

One of my friends had a baby girl on December 30th and I was honored to be asked to serve as her god-mother.  I was introduced at the reception: “This is Lauren, she’s my oldest friend!” What?  Because we go way back or because I’m 40!?  Anyway, her daughter, my god-daughter, is just an amazingly beautiful porcelain skinned babe who didn’t flinch a bit during the baptism.  I tried to celebrate the great circle of life, and it was nice to get away, but…

Closing out on a high note, I ended this last weekend of April participating in my 7th Congenital Heart Walk.  I exceeded my fundraising goal of $4000 (40 and some additional zeros!) thanks to people from just about every walk of life.  Friends, relatives, friends of relatives, Grandpa, and even my aunt’s friend whose daughter just had heart surgery in California.  We’re all in this together.  I walked with AGC, a friend’s daughter who is now 5 ½ (not 5, not 6, “5 and a half!”) and no longer in a stroller, but walking, alongside me, thriving, living and loving life – even after several open-heart surgeries.  Tick Tock We Don’t Stop! (OK except to take a pic or 2!)

The world is small, see the good in the bad.  Hug tight.  Smile.  Be present. 

Love with your heart.

 

 

 

February Flew By!

As we say goodbye to super-short Heart Month, a.k.a. February today, I want to share a few items of note:

  1.  I am 1 in 100!  
  2. I started my fundraising with the Adult Congenital Heart Association in their annual Congenital Heart Walk back in 2011.  So this year is lucky #7 & my 40th!
  3. I have walked every year (except 2012, you don’t want the why!)  with family and friends by my side all the time.  Mom, Dad, a boyfriend, a fiance, now my husband!, step-daughter, in-laws, a niece, girlfriends, and most special – the daughter of a girlfriend, who was also born with Congenital Heart Disease. (that is right, we were 2 in 100 that year!)
  4. Friends & family & friends of family amaze me every year.  This year I set a high bar for $4000 (10x my age!) and with just two weeks of fundraising complete as of today, I have raised $1445 from 20 kind, generous & super-supportive people.  That’s an average of $72.25 per person!  Average!  I gave just a measly $40 in honor of my 40 trips around the sun!  What will you give?  As little, or as much, or as clever an amount you want to donate will be most appreciated and put to good use – all for the cause!
  5. Since you know I kept track, I have to say that my first year of fundraising was my best yet – let’s do it again!  As of today I’m neck and neck with the top individual fundraiser to date for this year’s walk.
  6. Please – Join us April 29th – I promise it will be as spring-y then as it has been lately in the area! 

For me, for forty, for the other 1 in 100
Donate Today!

hover over pics to see corresponding year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Hearts Day!

 

Hello Dear Blog Followers,

All of you are my friends, some of you are family, and most of you are long time loving and loyal supporters, and for all of you I am grateful!

I am writing today because – you guessed it – it’s Valentine’s Day and what better way to celebrate than to kick off my fundraising efforts for the annual Congenital Heart Walk. I have signed up to participate in and raise funds for the Walk on April 29th.  This year, wheelchair-free and 40, I will walk to prove that, yes, you can be born with a congenital heart defect, have three open-heart surgeries, turn the big 4-0 and still celebrate 32 years with the same St. Jude mitral valve.

“It looks like a well-oiled machine,” to quote my new Johns Hopkins-based cardiac specialist!  It keeps on tickin’…

It is quick and easy to support this great cause by making your tax-deductible donation. Below is a link to my personal page.

Whatever you can give will help – it all adds up! I greatly appreciate your support, last year, this year, every year!  Thank you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

To make a donation online, visit my personal fundraising page.

 

Thank you, one and all, from the bottom of my ticker…pictured here!

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