Will It Ever Be Spring?

I’d love a little more motivation from Mother Nature to put a little “spring” in my step.

It’s April now, and in a week we will celebrate my 41st trip around the sun, which I haven’t seen for days.

Hopefully, come April 28th the sun will come out so we can do our annual Adult Congenital Heart Walk in the DC, MD & VA area at Wheaton Regional Park again.  I’m very much looking forward to it, but it sure is hard to get motivated about spring being walking season.

I have forced myself to come to terms with April, me, my health, my heart and walking.  Easter Sunday coincided with April Fool’s, and so, no joke, I got out and went for a long walk around a beautiful neighborhood lake and have every day since.  Mind you, it’s only the 4th, but I hope to loop that lake once a day for a month, at least.

Please join me in my fundraising efforts for the Adult Congenital Heart Association again this year as you have been so good at doing in past years.  The more who join us and walk with us the merrier.  April 28, bright and early at 8:45 a.m. we step off around the beautiful Brookside Gardens, it couldn’t be more scenic and easy to walk!

My fundraising goal is $3300 this year.  $100 for each year since my last surgery.  Every little bit helps and I appreciate your donation from the bottom of my heart!

$41 for 41 years, $33 for 33 years, $100 because it’s nice and round, $10.31 for the date of my last open heart surgery, whatever your little (big) heart desires would be awesome!

Click Here To Donate Now!

THANK YOU!

…one pic for each year since of walking for this great cause!

 

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March For Our Lives

Written on Metro en route to the March For Our Lives:

I am not a mom, but moms are not what this March is about.

This is about their kids. This whole tidal wave of outcry and protest is courtesy of our kids. A mom’s kid.

Kids who don’t come home from school on Wednesday. Kids who have created a “black hole” in a classroom by not being there the next week.

Innocent children lost to scary madmen with big guns. It’s all too easy.

I am not a mom. I don’t play one on TV, but in real life I’ve helped raise lots of kids. Kids who are two years old with twin brothers on the way. Kids who are on the brink of 5 who run carefree at an “open air” playground in the City. Kids who are on college campuses and in high school classrooms. I’ve been a carpool mom for many years now and I simply cannot ever imagine arriving to a crime scene or receiving a text that “Beth hasn’t been heard from yet”.

When moms send kids to school and wave as the bus pulls away, or not because the day is already too busy, they expect them to return later that day. What they don’t expect is complete mayhem after receiving a text, or worse, a breaking news alert that there’s a gunman on their elementary school grounds and the place is on lockdown and, no, you can’t come get your kids. It’s like yesterday Columbine happened. I was in college. It’s like this morning Newton happened. Those kids should be marching. Kids younger than those walked out of school on March 14th and I say good for them, but they shouldn’t have to. They shouldn’t know why they had to.

My nephews go to high school in Florida, not necessarily near Parkland, but when it happens in your state it’s like it happens to you. Then just last week it happened in my state. Don’t think it won’t happen in yours. They took their poor 16-year-old daughter off of life support. It had to come to that. Can you imagine?

Watching and listening to the vigil at the Washington National Cathedral was a moving reminder as to why we do this. Carmen’s parents spoke and it was probably the last thing in the world they thought they would do in 2018 would be to have to tell this county and that audience on March For Our Lives-eve about their daughter receiving word that she was a National Merit Scholar the day after she was shot and killed at school. (See their remarks starting at 59:50 mark) But, I’m so glad they’re here and strong enough to tell their story and share their Carmen with the world.

How to go on? What to do next? Is marching the day after the budget vote when Congressmen & Senators have gone to their respective Districts the answer? Will they hear these kids? Who knows. How soon until the next mass shooting? The next school shooting? The next gunfire outbreak at a concert? When will it end? When is enough really enough? Hopefully now. The future is in the hands of our youth. Let’s listen to them. Let’s be inspired by them.

Let’s act and stop with the “thoughts and prayers.”

Fast-Forward to…Written on Metro home from the March For Our Lives:

What an amazing day! Thoroughly inspired. Amazing.

It was not a March as there were definitely too many people. More of a rally, and an uplifting pep-rally at that! The entire stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue (where the President lives!) from 3rd to 12th Street and beyond was chock full of people. White people. Black people. Brown people. Men. Women. Children. Teachers. Democrats. Republicans. Gun owners, even! People who just plain care about kids, their safety and voting out the NRA and all of the representatives bought by the NRA.

And those on the stage: WOW! Articulate. Inspiring. Amazing. Angry. Fired up & Ready to Vote, if not run for office, or better yet, both! Not one person who spoke on that stage must have been 20 years old minus the musical guests. And Lin Manuel & Ben Platt, totally the greatest ever!  Download the song here.  Watch these men on stage here!

It was a day I won’t soon forget and I’m extremely grateful for my friend Davina who survived the Women’s March with me & still wanted to do it all over again. Only this time with an early breakfast meeting place that was empty and worked perfectly.  We walked from breakfast to until we couldn’t walk anymore and ended conveniently right in front of a Jumbotron! Go us! 

Yay kids!

Our future is fine, the kids are alright!

Keep up with them at www.MarchForOurLives.com

A few pictures from this memorable day are here:  Enjoy!

March For Our Lives

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?
mayoweod

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.
zippers
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.
AB UH Us

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!

mayo

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!

IMG_0327

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!)

card

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!

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.

st-jude-valve-17

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!

weiters
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.

heart

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!)

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!