It’s Not Nothing

Tuesday December 18, 2012 began like any other day. I woke up at 5:45 am and began getting ready for work. When I was about to leave the house, I started to feel a bit strange. My arm was weak and I had a weird feeling in my stomach. I figured it was nothing and got on the road to work…

Halfway to work on the 101, I started feeling worse. My arm started to ache and I felt lightheaded. Starting to get worried, I called my husband for some advice. As any good husband would do, he insisted I go directly to the hospital instead of to work. I hate hospitals but I reluctantly agreed and I detoured off the 101 to head to Banner Desert. By the time I got there I was actually feeling pressure in my chest, but no actual pain. On a side note, I quickly found out that the ER staff takes chest discomfort seriously as I was in a room within minutes.

To be honest, I thought it was nothing, after all I had experienced the same symptoms three days earlier but the symptoms disappeared within about twenty minutes. I figured I would be wasting time, money and most importantly a day off just for them to tell me it was nothing. To my surprise and dismay, it wasn’t nothing this time…

After a series of tests including an EKG, heart x-rays and an ultrasound, everything appeared to be normal. My doctor, the on call cardiologist, was stumped. According to him, I had none of the “classic” risk factors for heart disease. However he did say that being overweight didn’t help. Since I told him that I had experienced the same symptoms just days before, he decided to run one more test. This time it was a test to see if there were cardiac enzymes in my blood. Unlike the others, this test did not come out normal. There were trace amounts of cardiac enzymes in my blood, which indicated to my doctor that something was going on.

The following morning he performed an angiogram to see what was going on in my heart. If you don’t know what an angiogram is, it is quite scary. A thin wire with a tiny camera on the end is fed up through the femoral artery into the heart. The camera projects images of your heart onto a monitor so the doctor can see any blockages or valve issues that may exist. I wasn’t put under but rather was in a “twilight” state where I could see what was going on but didn’t really care. It was creepy and cool all at the same time. Unfortunately the angiogram revealed that there were two arteries with blockages, so they immediately performed an angioplasty implanting two stents in my heart. After the procedure was over, I asked my doctor if I had had a heart attack and he advised that he considered it a “cardiac event” and not a heart attack because there was no damage done to my heart. I consider myself one of the lucky ones…

According to the CDC and the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. One in thirty one women dies from breast cancer, but one in three dies from heart disease. That is approximately one every minute. 90% of women have one or more of the risk factors for developing heart disease and since 1984, more women have died from heart disease than men. There are a number of risk factors for heart disease/heart attack and the risk increases with each one that we have. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a family history of early heart disease are the common risk factors that most everyone knows about. In addition, eating an unhealthy diet and age are factors to take into consideration. However, there are other lesser known risks that I for one did not realize can contribute to heart disease. These include being a smoker, being overweight or obese and being physically inactive. Even though I have never been a smoker, I am overweight and have been relatively inactive most of my adult life.

When we think of heart attack signs and symptoms we generally think of the obvious one,  sharp shooting pain in the chest. For men, this is often the case but for women the signs are often much more subtle and easily passed off as other things.  Some of the signs of a heart attack for women include chest discomfort, but not necessarily excruciating pain and pain or weakness in the arms, neck, back and shoulders. (As I mentioned before, I had weakness in my arm) They also include pain in the jaw, stomach pain like heart burn or the stomach flu, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and trouble breathing. Women may also experience nervous or cold sweats, or fatigue. Many of these symptoms are easily dismissed by women with comments like, “I must have over eaten.” or “I must be catching the flu.” Fatigue or feeling tired is often explained away as “I’ve been working a lot of hours lately.” Aches and pains in the arms, neck, back and shoulders are often dismissed by saying “I must have pulled something when I was working out, it’s nothing.” How many times have you had an unexplained ache or pain or felt discomfort and then just dismissed it? I had been doing it for years, but this time, with a little encouragement from my husband, I listened to what my body was telling me. It was a good thing that I did…

You may feel silly or that you are overreacting if you go to the doctor or ER for these sort of symptoms, but believe me, your doctor will never tell you that you shouldn’t have come. He or she would say it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Finding my blockages early has allowed me to modify my lifestyle to lessen my risk of any future heart issues. Had I ignored  the symptoms, they may have disappeared as they did the first time, but the next time might have been more severe or worse yet, fatal. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Don’t say you’re too busy or you’ll go next time. For far too many women there isn’t a next time. It’s not nothing, this time it might be something…

 

 

 

 

 

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To Do or Not to Do

Benjamin Franklin once said “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” Everyday, people delay. We delay starting a project, telling our story, taking a class or making a change in our lives. How many dreams won’t come true because we are busy doing something else, or nothing at all?

The “delay” I am referring to is known as procrastination, delaying or intentionally putting off something that should be done to do something else more enjoyable or less difficult. We all procrastinate from time to time. We put off doing dishes to watch our favorite TV show, or blow off homework to go out with our friends. For most people, procrastination isn’t chronic or life changing but for others it can prevent them from accomplishing their goals and dreams.

I never really thought of myself as a procrastinator, or someone who chronically procrastinates. I managed to graduate from high school and college and haven’t had any difficulty holding a job, but recently I took a look at my life and discovered I am a procrastinator and writing this post has helped me start to overcome it.

Overcoming procrastination is not an easy process. The first and most important step is to recognize we are a procrastinator. Once we accept this fact we can move toward eliminating this bad habit from our lives.

Second, we need to determine why we are procrastinating. There are a number of reasons why we procrastinate. Sometimes it’s because a task is unpleasant and we can’t see the benefit to completing it. For example, cleaning the house. It’s just going to get dirty again, right? Other times we procrastinate because a task is too difficult or time consuming. It would be much easier to read and answer emails than to start that large work project that is due next week. We may even procrastinate because we have a fear of failing, so we never want to start. This is the main reason that I procrastinate.

For a number of years I have had a dream and desire to write a book. I haven’t decided if it will be fiction or non-fiction or what the topic will be, but I know there is a story in me somewhere. Over the past few years I have made lists, collected supplies, signed up for classes and read a lot of books, but today I am no closer to making my dream come true than I was 10 years ago. I have recognized my reason for procrastinating is my fear of failure, so I never even get started. We may also procrastinate because we are not organized. Many times we have too many tasks to complete but don’t know how to prioritize what to do first. When this happens we get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing at all. When I feel overwhelmed, my “escape” is to grab my tablet and play “Candy Crush” to distract myself from the things I really need to do.

The third step to overcoming procrastination is to develop strategies that will help overcome it. If our problem is being disorganized, a solution might be to keep a to do list and prioritize it. Putting the most important tasks or the ones with the soonest due date at the top of the list. Scheduling difficult or very detailed tasks at times we are most alert will also help us complete the tasks on time. When we are overwhelmed by a very large task breaking it into smaller more manageable tasks can make it easier to accomplish. If we make an action plan and stick to it step by step, we will accomplish our goals. If the task is unpleasant, go ahead and try it anyways. It may not be as bad as you might think. Reward yourself when these unpleasant tasks have been accomplished. For example, promise yourself a Starbucks treat after you finish cleaning the house or give yourself an hour to watch a favorite show once you have written your 500 words for the day. Ask someone you trust to check on your progress. It will keep you accountable and on track. Eliminate distractions and noise. If you know that you are easily enticed by TV or video games, eliminate them from your environment. In addition, seek help if we exhibit signs of self-defeating issues such as fear, anxiety or perfectionism.

Many procrastinators, myself included, have said they perform best under pressure but this is really just a way to justify putting something off. A few weeks ago I set a goal for myself. It’s a lofty and personal one. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, I will break this goal into much smaller tasks and reward myself after each of these tasks are completed. In addition, I plan on enlisting a trusted friend to check on my progress to keep me accountable. Once we can recognize and admit that we are procrastinators, it becomes easier to overcome. Figuring out why we procrastinate will help us find the strategies that work best for our particular situation. Every strategy will not work for every person. Finding a solution that works for us is what is most important. “The best way to get something done is to begin” – Author Unknown.

 

 

Growing Up Normal…

Despite a very abnormal entrance into the world, my life up to this point couldn’t be more normal. I was born with a very serious birth defect. At just minutes old I was producing way more mucus in my nose and mouth than what is normal. I had a deformity where my esophagus was connected to one of my lungs instead of my stomach. It was pretty obvious to the Naval hospital doctors that emergency surgery was needed to save my life. At just three hours old I had the surgery. It was successfully and obviously I survived. My parents were told that the survival rate for girls with this condition was much higher than it was for boys. As a matter of fact, after my surgery was done and they knew I was going to be ok, the doctors told my mom that a male infant had recently died at that same hospital as a result of the same condition. It was unusual that not one but two babies would have the same rare condition at nearly the same time.

Not long after my recovery our family, which included a year old brother, moved back to Chicago as my dad was out of the Navy. My dad worked and went to college at University of Illinois Chicago and three years later my “Normal” life began. A job offer from State Farm Insurance brought us to the small Midwestern town of Normal, IL. As small Midwestern towns go, Normal was, pretty normal. There were a few large employers, State Farm being one of the largest in Normal’s twin city, Bloomington. There was a state college, a few high schools and grade schools and not much of anything else. I spent age three to eighteen in an area of town that was pretty much “white picket fence” without the white picket fences. It was kid friendly and safe. The three homes I lived in while growing up were within a mile radius of one another.

Unlike most people I know, I actually went to kindergarten through high school graduation in the same school district. As mobile as we are as a society these days, that is actually pretty rare. After graduating from Normal Community High School I did the “normal” thing and went on to college. My move to the University of Illinois took me to another Midwestern town quite similar to Normal. Champaign-Urbana was my home for the next four years while I pursued a degree in advertising. I dreamed of an exciting career in the “big city”. Of course I am referring to Chicago. But bad luck and a bad economy resulted in an advertising position with a home improvement chain, in you guessed it, another normal, Midwestern town. This time it was Eau Claire, WI. My stay there wasn’t long, but I met my husband and got married while I was there.

When I needed a change, back to Champaign-Urbana we went. Kids came next and life as a working mom and wife was pretty normal. My days were filled with work and kids activities. By now you must be wondering what brought me to Arizona and a career at Allstate. Well, a failing marriage that needed new life and new beginning resulted in a cross country move with two kids in tow. Unfortunately (or more accurately, fortunately) the marriage needed more than a change in scenery could provide and I soon found myself single again. As strange and as sad as this may sound, I feel like this part of my journey in life was pretty typical and “normal”. Divorce and single parenthood are so common these days, it’s not considered abnormal at all. Single parenthood and the need for a better job and benefits is what eventually led me to Allstate. With a little nudging from my retired “Good Neighbor” parents, I started looking for claims jobs and nearly eleven years later I am still enjoying my insurance career.

The best part of my extremely normal life now is my new husband and our blended family. Nine years ago, we were both looking for love again and we each decided to give online dating a try. We were matched on eHarmony on the first weekend my husband joined and met in person six weeks later. To this day I still tease him about what a bargain he was for me as I only signed up for three months just to see if I liked it. He on the other hand paid a premium for me as he paid for an entire year and found me in just a day or two. Online dating for years was considered sketchy and odd, but nowadays, you guessed it, it is pretty normal.

I’ve been married now for six years and not only did I gain a husband, but I gained two new daughters and a few years later an adorable granddaughter. The only thing not normal for me these days is having a little one calling me “Grammy”!

Are You Ready to Find Your Tribe?

I have a quick but important question for you today. What are the two most common and damaging mistakes most bloggers and writers make? Give up?

Mistake 1: Not seeking out training or educational opportunities.

Hey, I know that all your favorite writers and bloggers make it look easy as pie… but that’s an illusion. Anyone who is performing at the top of their game and making it look easy has studied and trained extensively. Think professional athletes, ballet dancers, and musicians. They all make incredibly difficult things look easy because they’ve trained long and hard. Writing and audience building is no different. You can’t wing it and realistically hope to be successful. You have to train and study.

Mistake 2: Getting bad advice and training from the wrong people.

You know as well as I do that the internet is rife with self-anointed experts who are more than happy to sell you some borrowed, re-purposed advice. Sometimes bad advice is even more damaging than no advice, so you really have to be careful who you listen to. That’s why I’m so excited about Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writers course. If you’ve been working hard at doing the right things, but your work just hasn’t gotten noticed yet, this course may be just what you need to break through.

Jeff has been in your shoes. He’s worked in obscurity. He’s wished and hoped for that big break that never came. But then he figured it all out. He learned four powerful principles that made his writing career finally take off – and now he’s enjoying a level of success he could only dream of before. Jeff has coached over a thousand writers to successfully build their platforms and their own tribes using those very same principles. And in Tribe Writers, Jeff teaches you all four in great detail – showing you step-by-step how you can make these principles work for you. You’ll learn…

1: How to write for an audience that’s perfect for you.

2: What it really takes to really build a powerful platform.

3: The secrets of successful guest posting and getting published in magazines.

4: How to get published: through self-publishing or by getting publishing houses to notice you.

When you master these four principles, you’ll have the training you need to finally…stand out in a crowded market

  • strike a chord with the right audience for you
  • build relationships with influential people who can help you
  • create your own momentum
  • finally attract the attention your work deserves

If you’ve been trying to attract an audience, build your platform, and get your work noticed on a bigger stage and it’s just not working out like you’d hoped, go check out Tribe Writers now. It just may be the spark that ignites your career. Isn’t it time your work got the attention it deserves? Go read more now at Tribe Writers.

No More Fear, Just Pursuing a Dream…

Something that happened to me at work this past week got me to thinking. It wasn’t the most embarrassing thing that has happened in my life, but it was definitely a blow to my ego. After crumpling up a note I no longer needed, I tossed it at my trash. When I realized it hadn’t made it into the basket, I rolled my chair back a bit and leaned over to pick it up. When I had it in my hand, my chair suddenly slid out from under me and I ended up on the floor, flat on my behind. I yelled a profanity and then got myself up off the floor. I wasn’t hurt, there was enough padding down there to soften the fall, but I was really embarrassed. My co-workers, the ones who were still there and lucky enough to witness the incident, were very kind. They seemed genuinely concerned and even offered to help me up. There was a Happy Hour gathering that night and this incident may have been a topic of conversation, and they may have had a good laugh about it, but I don’t care. In years past, I would have hated the thought of others laughing at my expense. In the past, something like this would have really bothered me. I would have been worried about going back to work on Monday for fear of what everyone must be thinking or what someone might say.

There have been far more embarrassing things that have happened in my life and to date, the world hasn’t ended and none of these situations changed my life dramatically. Once when I was in college I got the flu and was severely dehydrated. I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and as I sat there I suddenly felt like the life was draining out of me. The next thing I know I was on the floor, butt up in the air. Fortunately the impact with the floor woke me up and I was able to get myself back to my room. Imagine the horror if someone else had found me that way. My roommate called the RA when she noticed that my face was bleeding and I got an ambulance ride to the ER. As you can imagine, there was a lot of commotion with lights and sirens from the ambulance in the middle of the night. The rest of the week was spent at my parent’s house and when I returned, not a word was mentioned of what I considered to be the “most embarrassing event” of my young life. People may have talked and people may have gawked when it was happening, but in the end it really didn’t affect my life at all.

A few years after college I was interviewing for a part-time job to do some graphic design and layout work for a local advertiser and I felt like the interview went really well. As I went to leave I shook hands with the manager and turned to leave. As I stepped through the doorway, the heel of my shoe got stuck in the threshold and the next thing I knew I was hurling forward out of control. Before I knew it I was on my knees on the landing, four steps down. With torn pantyhose and blood running down my leg I stood up and tried to compose myself. Fighting back tears, I shrugged off assistance and assured the manager that I was ok. I then quickly made my way down the other twenty steps and out the door. Once back in my car, the tears started to flow. I was more concerned with what the manager must have thought of me than the fact that I could have been seriously injured. Looking back, had I not landed on the landing, I may have tumbled down the rest of the steep stairway and not been here to tell this story today. I thought for sure the world was ending and there was no way I was going to get that job. After two weeks of no news, I finally got the call and was offered the job. I don’t know if I was truly the most qualified candidate for the job or if they felt sorry for me after what had happened. I was grateful I was given the opportunity and again life was not hugely impacted.

Sometimes I struggle with what to write about and what I should and shouldn’t share. The fear creeps in and makes me question what others will say or what others will think. I am fairly certain that this fear is what has kept me from pursuing a writing career in the past. I didn’t enjoy falling on my behind in front of my co-workers, but it did get me thinking and then it got me writing. Thinking back on these moments and realizing that they didn’t really affect my life in any significant way has brought me some relief and to the realization that this is my dream and no one else’s opinions will keep me from pursuing it.

Finding My Voice and My Tribe

So, I have never written a blog, I don’t even journal. I started to once, but never really followed through with it. I haven’t even followed any blogs until now.  I love to read and have a few favorite authors, but I rarely take the time to read for enjoyment. I rarely take the time to do something I “want” to do as opposed to what I “need” to do. Work and life have always taken over and I haven’t found my passion, my life’s dream so to speak. When I think about what would make me happy and what I want to “do”, I have always had this little small voice that tells me, “you should be a writer, you have a voice, let it out, let it shine.” I have dreamed of being a “published author” for over 20 years now and haven’t taken any steps towards accomplishing that dream. I really have no experience other than writing papers in high school and college and I enjoyed it then. (Much more than getting up in front of people to do a speech or presentation) As a matter of fact I took two English Composition classes in college to get the proper credits instead of taking just one Speech class to fulfill the same requirement. I struggle with what I would write about, who would my tribe be and how do I get started. In the past 5 years or so, three personal friends of mine have written books. Two published E-books and one is still working on getting hers published. Until I saw their manuscripts, I had no idea that they were writers, writing or even had an interest in writing a book. For each friend I was happy, excited, pleasantly surprise, but most of all JEALOUS! They were doing what I wanted to do. I don’t know if I finally got to this point (starting this course and beginning the journey to becoming a writer) because of my jealousy but I know that it was certainly part of it.

Looking back at my life, I can say that I have been pretty lucky. I haven’t had to deal with any truly traumatic events. I guess my entrance into this world could be considered traumatic for my parents and grandparents anyways, as I do not remember it. I was born with a defect that caused my esophagus to be connected to one of my lungs instead of to my stomach. I underwent life saving surgery when I was just hours old and survived and thrived in the years to follow. I had good parents who provided a safe and loving home, food on the table and all the things that I needed and most of what I wanted to have. I got a good education and have several wonderful friends who have been in my life 20-30 years. Life hasn’t been perfect, as my first marriage of almost 13 years ended in a divorce after infidelity and dishonesty fractured our bond. I learned through that failure that my happiness did matter and it’s not being selfish to want to be happy. Sometimes I feel like I have been unusually blessed and don’t deserve the life I have. I feel like I am constantly waiting for the other “shoe to drop”. I gave birth to two beautiful daughters who amaze and impress me every day and after finding the love of my life 7 years ago, I also gained two wonderful stepdaughters. One of which has given my husband and I a little miracle we call our granddaughter, Jaelynn.

At times I feel guilty that I have not had the trials that others have had. I think that is why I struggle with what I should write about and how can I help other people. I haven’t gone through great struggles, been homeless, addicted, lost or out of control. I just sort of blend in, work to provide for my family and feel like I have never really “made a difference” in anyone’s life. This is what I need help with. Finding my niche, my tribe. Who can I encourage, who can I teach, who can I inspire? What is my voice?

Introducing my new website

Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my new blog! This is just an introductory post so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

I decided to start a blog because I am starting my journey as a writer.

Over the next few months I plan to be writing and sharing posts about many different topics.

That’s it for now! If you’d like to be kept updated with my posts “Like” this post or subscribe to my blog.