I Can’t Put it Into Words, but…I’ll try

I feel like I’ve read it all.

I haven’t.

I feel like I’ve felt this all before.

I have.

Folks, we’ve been here before. We’ll be here again. History repeats itself.  We were “with her” and we are “stronger together” as a result. We just didn’t chant that as frequently or with such fervor as they chanted “lock her up!”

But the facts are the facts: feet on the street win elections. We should have done more. We assumed minds were made up so we ignored middle America. You cannot win with the seaboards alone, though 77 electoral votes in the West Coast were worth staying up for.

There were carbon copy flashbacks of Election Night 2000. Remember “Sore Loserman”? What’s old is new again.  We were counting down the days “until we win” while Ralph Nader’s shit show paraded back and forth in front of our Nashville HQ.

We did all we could until it was “return watch party” time.

And it got later, and later, and later.

The stage was set, the balloons ready to fall from the ceiling, and then…it got later, and an older man with not quite a full head of hair came out INSTEAD of our candidate, and the woman we had been with during the entire campaign, did not.  Remember Warren Christopher?  There was no real end to that night. Either night.  But in 2000, the recounts were underway.

After all that time and singular focus, you throw in the towel, you go to sleep, you wake up and POW!, you find yourself in a different world where the one with the most votes is NOT declared the winner.  Again.

We live in a democracy. It was a real-life (long & drawn out) episode of Survivor (or the Bachelor, or however best you can relate), someone gets voted off the island and not handed a rose. There was only going to be one winner. But for the sake of SO many, and as I had wished it in 2000, I wished it had been HER.

My lucky big-city-livin’ brother was IN the Javits Center in the heart of the excitement and energy….until it wasn’t anymore. When I asked if he got any pictures he gave me a quick reply and I wished I could have eaten my words.

“You know what I got last night? I watched a Muslim man writhe in agony on the floor in front of me. I saw a woman take off her keffiyeh and throw it in the trash.”  

I cried when I woke up and I cried again when I heard the news and time stood still. This is real. This result means so much and so many different things to so many.

Kindness & love, people!  You just never know what Tuesday meant to so many lives around us. Start talking to people. Everyone. This is an all too divided nation and it needn’t be.

I wish I had answers. Protests and riots are not the answer. We should each strive to be our better selves and hope our new president and our fellow citizens will learn to love their neighbor.

Onward!

Some articles that meant something and that I wanted to share.

Forget Canada, Stay and Fight for American Democracy

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/forget-canada-stay-and-fight-for-american-democracy.html?mid=facebook_nymag

Finish Your Ugly-Crying: Here’s What Comes Next

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/11/finish-your-ugly-crying-heres-what-comes-next.html

electoral-college-map

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our gracious hostesses with the mostest, we did have a lot of fun for a while and did punch two fists into the air when we won Virginia!  Thanks, T & L

 

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Seeq-ing Answers after 31 years!

Technology just might never cease to amaze me.

I’ve had three open heart surgeries.  An artificial valve that is no more than 15mm across “ticks” inside my chest every second of every day.  This St. Jude’s Mitral Valve was placed there very carefully by Dr. Frank Midgley & his team at the Children’s National Medical Center 31 years ago today, October 30, 1985.  I’ve been ticking ever since!

What I have not been as of late, however, is regular!  My heart has been racing, ticking loudly and forcibly for a few months now.  It’s been taken for a good ride this past year between moving, a wedding and honeymooning across the pond and walking literally all over the great City of London.

Arriving home on Thursday evening and suspecting just a little flutter on the trans-Atlantic flight, I could really hear it ticking in overdrive on Friday and took myself to the local Emergency Room.  Needless to say, I have been frequenting cardiologists offices ever since.  Seeing the Adult Congenital Specialist at Johns Hopkins was a real eye-opener for me and my mother (a nurse) alike.  I am an amazing case, one they all love to study a little more every time.

To track my abnormal rhythms, I was asked by my latest Cardiologist, Dr. Joann Urqhart (new to my care team as my adult cardiologist recently retired) to wear the Medtronic SEEQ wireless wearable heart rate and rhythm monitor.  About the size of an iPhone, I stuck this on my upper left chest for one month’s time.  Changing it every Friday, I had four total, and was able to do all activities of daily living with it on.  Once the month was completed, I boxed it all back up and sent it back to Medtronic.  Days later, a report arrived in a FedEx envelope on my door with a whopping 81 pages (double sided) of EKG strips.  See, I had to push the sensor on the monitor every time the ticker was out-of-whack and a kind soul who was looking at my continuous EKG all this time, would call me to collect my symptoms and find out what I was doing at the time of out-of-whack-ness.  Ross and I became fast friends, as he seemed to call and check in on me the most.  Turns out he graduated from my husband’s high school a few years before he did.  Small world!

Anyway, as if Election Day isn’t doomsday enough, or enough to make my heart skip some beats with excitement, the day after I am trekking to Hopkins again for an echo cardiogram and meeting with the Adult Congenital Heart Specialist again, Dr. Thomas Traill, lucky man soon received a copy of all 81 pages and is probably still reviewing them tonight.

We shall see what the future holds, but until then, I’m going to keep on tickin’ – 31 years later & counting!

61749_MechMitralValve

My Ticker!

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Born with a broken heart…

Teachable Moment

Those who know and love me know a teacher I am not, but those same folks never thought I’d sport the title of “step-mom” either, but alas – as a step-mom today I spied with my little eyes a teachable moment and went for it … all the way & all in!

We went as a family to vote early at the local rec center. Having already made mine count by voting absentee, I stood in the periphery and watched the process. Technical difficulties and a minuscule tear in page two (yes, the ballot is front and back of two legal sheets of paper) made someone have to go “re do” his ballot and so the youngest and I stood together between the scanner and the door.

A family of four, clearly first time voters, placed their ballots into the scanner one page at a time and the poll worker stood beside ensuring that they saw the flag, meaning their ballot was cast and counted. I froze, thankful for what I was, what we were, witnessing.

After receiving their stickers, the voters cooed over how cute she was in her cheer uniform and hot pink breast cancer awareness hair ribbon. Once they walked out I leaned right in between her cheek and shoulder and whispered in her ear:

“Do you notice anything about what is happening?”

“Yeah, they’re voting for Hillary!” She proclaims.

“Shhhh! No, not that, what else?”

“No. I don’t notice anything else?!” (Like, “what’s wrong with you, yes they are?!”)

“What do you notice about that nice man next to the machine?”

“He’s tall?!” (Like, “where are you going with this?!”)

“What else?”

“He’s brown?” I personally noticed his J. Hopkins name tag, but ok.

“What’s he saying to the people?”

“There you go (handing out the coveted “I Voted!” sticker) and thank you!”

Exactly.

And there it was – – – I should have teared up, but instead I just said:

“Not that long ago people like him didn’t get to vote, and now he’s thanking all of these people for voting” – and she stops me excitedly, “for a woman!?!”

YES!

Whew! Poor thing thinks Hillary is the only thing on that two page, double sided legal sized ballot! I’ll take it!

Personally, I wanted to know that everything we discussed sank in so once her dad finished she says, “Dad, guess what I know about that brown man?!”

OK -let’s leave! Now.

“In the olden days…” she began.

I had said “not that long ago” but, ok, she’s 9 3/4!

Teachable. 

My history major and women’s studies minor heart is happy today. More on the ticker in the next post.

#GetOutTheVote #IWillVote #MarylandWillVote #VoteEarly #EveryVoteCounts #StrongerTogether

 

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New Friends & Shattered Glass!

 

(Author’s Note:  This is Part 2 of 2.  Read Part 1 here)

Well, I definitely made some new friends and I certainly watched some glass ceilings come down in a bajillion pieces and it was all worth it!  To see my Senator, Barbara Mikulski take the stage and be recognized as the first woman into the US Senate (sadly retiring), and to watch my former Commonwealth’s Governor, who turned into a Senator, and who is now Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential running-mate, Tim Kaine, and be in the same “room” with them and 50,000 other people was incredible.  That’s so not the word, but I can’t find the right one just yet, either!

Wednesday evening, I was moved from my post in Suite 2 to Suite 19, still on the balcony, but Wednesday night was for the record books in terms of exciting nights of my life!  Our guests in suite 19 were just some of the American people who have seen the worst in America.  Luckily, they see the best in Hillary and came and spoke as amazing surrogates.

Angela Bassett introduced two women who were in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on that fateful night at Bible study.  Grief into action.  Say their names. Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard and their husbands were in Suite 19 for the evening. I would like to think my teammates and I served up some Southern hospitality in the City of Brotherly Love for them!

Tyrone Sanders, after his wife finished her remarks, said to my friend, Jennifer, who was in the suite with us, “I was proud of her on that day, and I’m proud of her now.  I could have lost 3 family members that day.”  Gut-wrenching!  He was amazing in his lavender shirt which he told us he wears for his son.

Tyrone & LSR

Tyrone Sanders & Lauren

Jamie Dorff, who married the boy she grew up with when she was 21, lost her husband, Pat in 2004 in Iraq.  Jamie and her daughter, Brissa, were in our suite before, during and after Jamie’s speech.  To sit (ok, I was standing the entire time!) and watch Brissa watch her mom on that podium, that world’s stage, and just bawl crying was something that will rock my world for a while.  To get that up-close with the people who’ve seen and felt the worst is heart-grabbing.

Cap off Wednesday night with getting onto the elevator with Christine Leinonen and her only son’s friends as they make their way down and out of the Wells Fargo Center, where she had received a standing ovation and 38 seconds of applause mid-speech.  Honestly, really?  Is this happening?  I couldn’t’ stop myself.  I had to say something to her and while I wasn’t a blubbering idiot, I honestly don’t remember what I said, but she touched my forearm and said, “I did it for you, and I hope you never experience anything like it.”  She reiterated that the outpouring of love from Orlando and this country has been and continues to be amazing.  I didn’t add that my fabulous husband donated blood at my suggestion after seeing so many in line the next morning, but he did!

I had been joined by friends in Suite 19 and even made new ones.  The world is a small place.  A McEnearney agent and friend, Brett West, who volunteered on the floor with the Vermont Delegation, (lucky him!) brought a friend with him to Suite 19 on Wednesday evening and I was very happy to play hostess to them and witness our President’s speech along with them and all the rest! He didn’t bring Ben, he was just a crasher!

Brett & LSR

Brett West & Lauren

Ben crashed too

Ben crashes Suite 19!

Brett M-

Brett watching Barack!

Peter Newbold, a friend from Alexandria and the Electoral Board there, (since moved to Seattle) was hosting and assisting with the speakers and getting them from suite to podium.  It was like no time had passed when he walked into 19 with them.  Just good Alexandrians doing good!  What could be better?! 

Peter & LSR

Peter Newbold & Lauren

I’ll tell you what’s better, the Secret Service Officer who was “on duty” from as high up as we were, but who was still willing to take a pic (zoom & no zoom) of Barack speaking at the podium! 


Thursday I didn’t have volunteering duties, so I hung out around the Pennsylvania Convention Center for a bit, bought some campaign paraphernalia, saw Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. & had lunch with my favorite Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Honorable Adam P. Ebbin!  You know – a typical day! 

Hard to see the fun week come to an end, but I wanted to be home with my mother to watch Chelsea introduce hers and witness HERSTORY with my mom, who, of course, shed a tear or two watching!

watchin w mom

Ready!

There are lots of good people in the world, folks!

Happy August, Make It Count!

 

99 Days!

This time last week I was fretting and packing and so excited to be heading to sleep only to wake up early and take the first train to Philadelphia!  Tonight, I go to sleep knowing that when I wake up there are just 99 days left until November 8, 2016.  99 days left to work, sweat, knock and call and get out the vote for the first female nominee for President of these United States.  A Democrat.  A Clinton.  A Female!  So so so exciting.  What a great time to be alive!

This past week’s experiences cannot be put into words.  I witnessed and was a part of so much history.  It was an amazing few days in the “City of Brotherly Love” & “America’s First City” celebrating history (my major) and women’s studies (my minor).  I wore my acorn & oak leaf necklace as a tribute to Elon!  (Long Live Elon!)  I wore my great grandmother’s engagement ring to keep her with me at all times, and a bracelet from my mother for the same reason.  Truly an exceptional few days!  I wouldn’t have been there without those women, Elon & EMILY’s List, where I interned my senior year of college.  Yes, that was the Spring of 2000, and my springboard on into the National Presidential Campaign trail that took me thru to Nashville, TN and the Gore Lieberman campaign where America originally (most recently) learned about the 3rd party candidate debacle that I hope does not rear its ugly head into Election Day & Night, November 8 of 2016!

You see, I connected (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg & Facebook) with my mentor, boss lady, official badass & Emerge Wisconsin’s Woman of the Year award winner, The Great Heather Colburn, and landed a volunteer gig with the Democratic National Convention Committee.  It only took a few days and an email to which I relied “Deal. Me. In” and, voila, I was tasked to serve as a “Suite Access Volunteer” and just get myself to Philly & find a place to sleep!  Thank you to both AirBnB.com and Amtrak, I was set in a matter of hours!

Monday afternoon I met up with my team (plenty early, of course, because you know I didn’t want to be late or miss a thing!) and became fast friends with several wonderful people and lowly volunteers lucky enough to be given the privilege to serve and be handed credentials not only to the Wells Fargo Center, but to club & balcony levels, too! 

Ironically enough, not one person (ok some fellow volunteers & some not-so-volunteers, but staffers) came into my suite on Monday night.  But to be parallel with the balloons suspended from the rafters was definitely a breath-taking experience.  It sounds totally cliché, but as soon as I saw the balloons I was taken back to Boston (2004) & Los Angeles (2000) instantly, where I had been in similar seats to witness history of a different kind.

So, yes, I was there to watch and listen to Michelle Obama as she exuded nothing but pure passion for this great nation and pride in her daughters, never mind how much she pumped up the crowd!  And I was there on my feet screaming and clapping when Cory Booker told us to “Rise Together!”

Tuesday evening, I was able to enjoy a few more folks in the suite to which I was assigned, but still not many, so therefore I was able to listen as every state cast its votes and Bernie Sanders handed the nomination off to Hillary Rodham Clinton!  I took a video. I’ll upload it soon.  It was terrific to witness.

Then, I was calmly able to focus on every word Bill Clinton spoke about his love affair with “a girl” he met in the Spring of 1971.

But right this minute I’m going to bed.  Sorry – more tomorrow!

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A Tribute to Dr. Ross!

A tribute to my Cardiologist, Dr. Elizabeth Ross on the occasion of her retirement…

Here’s how it started.  I entered the office on March 11, 2016, just as I had for every other check-up, echo, and stress test appointment, and was greeted by a staff member sliding the glass panel that separated us and checked in as usual.  As it turned out, it was not really “usual,” more like my new normal as I checked in with my new married name.  I noticed and was quick to point out, “Hey, Dr. Ross needs some business cards out here.” “Oh, no, she’s retiring soon, so…” Whatever she said after that I cannot recall.  Time stood still.  I heard nothing more.  That was it.  It hit me.  Bam!  Totally blind-sided and completely unexpected.

Well, no, not completely.  I mean, my grandfather and my dad are the only retired people I know.  Who retires?  It’s 2016, aren’t we all wired to work until we drop? “This cannot be happening,” I thought.

Of course, as with all life-altering news, I immediately sat down and texted my mother.  “Lauren, (big smile) come on back!” I was taken out of the shock and sadness and swooped back to the exam room by Dr. Ross herself.  This act of being greeted by the doctor and then invited to get up on an exam table with fabric and not paper are unique to this office, and I should know, given the number of DC area doctors I have seen.

We had the usual visit, “weigh yourself” (how kind) and “let’s get an EKG on you!”  Dr. Ross told me that mine is the only birthdate she knows by heart and that is because she’s entered it into that machine so many times.  I’ll take the flattery!

Asked to share a short message and focus on the role she may have played in my life was not an easy task.  I have pondered where to begin every day since March 11th and there are so many ways and days she has mattered much to me, but the most important and unforgettable time was in the middle of the night, closer to early morning, somewhere between 2 and 3 a.m.  I had mailed Dr. Ross my annual Christmas letter and she very nicely sent me one back.  As a result, I had her street address from the return envelope.  No doubt, I programmed that in my phone right away.  So at 2 a.m. on a Memorial Day weekend while lying on the emergency room gurney I used my iPhone, went to the white pages app, entered Ross and N Street and hit dial.  Her terrific husband answered after maybe two rings.  He sounded pretty groggy and as I sheepishly asked “is Dr. Ross available?”  He said not a word but handed her the receiver and immediately I heard, “This is Dr. Ross, how can I help?” in her same voice as if it were noon on a week day!

“They want to reverse my Coumadin and….” (I don’t even know what all I said) and she didn’t care anymore past that part either and said “why don’t you put the doctor on the phone?”  And just like that I’m handing my iPhone to some doctor who just walked in this ER and said “we need to operate right now.”  Fifteen minutes later that poor man, who was not a young doctor, walked in and said “I don’t think I’ve ever been schooled about so much, so fast in all my life.” Ha, ha!  I knew Dr. Ross would set him straight!

I could go on, but really, need I say more?  She took me on when my pediatric cardiologist “fired” me when I went off to college.  She saw me through many things – medical and otherwise – like hair-dos, EKGs, boyfriends, echos, college days, flutter, weight gain, lab work, medication changes, and more.  Dr. Ross didn’t specialize in congenital heart defects, but she specialized in me!  The last thing she saw me through was yet another procedure related to the downstream effects of congenital heart disease.  And following that, I’m off to my honeymoon!

There is no proper way to close this letter.  I love you, Dr. Ross, and I thank you so much for the last 17 years of my care.     

Your Favorite Patient,

Lauren Elisabeth Smith Ridgway
Atrial Septal Defect

 

The “Walk” Was Successful ~ Thank YOU!

Three months ago I posted on here about the Adult Congenital Heart Walk taking place in Wheaton at Brookside Gardens.

In the meantime, with the help of 42 donors, I was one of the top five fundraisers for the 2016 Washington DC Area Congenital Heart Walk!  Just $3 shy of $3500!  Smallest donation:  $5.  Largest donation:  $500.  Love felt:  All of it!

This year I was supported by my parents, siblings, in-laws, husband, aunts, uncles, friends in Hong Kong, family in Germany, friends closer to home, friends of my parents, colleagues, Do More with LES clients, families I babysat for, even my (retiring) cardiologist – so much love far and wide!  Thank you so much!

Last Saturday I participated in the walk.  See, I cannot say I “walked” because that would be lying.  I managed to be handed yet another medical speedbump and was forced to be pushed in a wheelchair by my fabulous husband and a few little helpers.  It was vascular surgery on my legs so that I can make an international flight across the pond for our upcoming honeymoon and physically, actually walk.  I opted to travel, thus saving my leg and requiring the wheelchair.  Big bummer, but still lucky enough to participate!

My brother-in-law, his cute daughter (almost 3), my step-daughter (9), my girlfriend, and her son (also, almost 3) and my dear ole dad walked alongside.  My amazingly supportive (and thankfully strong) husband pushed yours truly in her wheelchair!  Thank goodness for the carousel afterwards.  The sun didn’t come out, but it didn’t rain on us either, so it was a terrific morning surrounded by love and support.  Even at 39, I still feel like a pretty lucky kid at that event.  It was nice to see friends from Children’s National there, too.

Thank you to my forty-two donors, and if you’re reading and haven’t yet done so, it’s never too late to give, as the cause and research will always be there.  Thank you from the bottom of my ticker!  Cheerio!

http://events.congenitalheartwalk.org/goto/lesridgway

 

heartfelt thx