In the Moment

Sunset

Very soon, there will not be enough space on forms for me to fill out the number of surgeries that I have had.  I am not yet 40.

I am not complaining, these kinds of things happen, and for the most part there is little that I could have done in my past to have prevented any of these surgeries.  

My tonsils?  Well, they just got too big and by the age of 6 the doctor wanted them out.

At 19 a disc in my back degenerated so badly that my right leg was starting to go numb and give out.  I am not sure that I could have changed that.

Three knee surgeries happened due to a stupid skiing accident on a day when I did not even want to go skiing.  I suppose I could have changed this - I could have not gone skiing that day.  I could have taken a different trail down the mountain (I'm sorry, HILL, as we were skiing in Massachusetts...), and there are dozens of other little decisions that could have been made to stop the incident from occurring, but none the less, it happened.  And life goes on.

A hole in my heart... born with it.  Congenital heart defects happen, and I do not know of any ways to stop them.  Many people have asked me, "Well, how did you find out about it?"  A simple one word response:  "I had a stroke."  And I could not have stopped the stroke, because it had to do with the heart defect.

And now I am pretty fired up, because I get to have another knee surgery.

You almost have to laugh at all of this.  Almost.  Because if you didn't you would sit down in a corner and cry because the entire situation is pretty pathetic.  However, I am not the kind of person to sit in the corner and cry.  I am not the kind of person to sit in the corner and complain.  I would rather be in the middle of it all, changing things for the better, and making a conscious decision to live my life in the moment, and know that for that moment, it is going to be alright. 

 


Frequent Patient Card

I should be used to it by now... the waiting, the anticipation, the news, the no news, the anxiety, and perhaps most prominent of all, the frustration.  Yes, after all of my numerous visits, countless tests, blood draws, scans, xrays, MRIs, I still hold out hope that the next time it will be different.  But more often than not, I am disappointed.

I am a repeat customer at my hospital.  If any one of my doctors spent time reading over my chart, they would see that I am an excellent client - good for them, bad for me.  Three knee surgeries, stroke, open-heart surgery, pneumonia, all within in the past 6 years.  Pretty good stuff, right, and for someone who has not even reached the age of 40.  And lucky me, I managed to do something to my knee again, two days ago.

Not just a little something, but something so painful that I am unable to put weight down on my leg. So painful that it keeps me up at night, and so painful that just looking at stairs causes panic.  You might say, well I am a klutz or I need to take better care of myself.  That is the irony of it all - low blood pressure, no smoking, and a fitness instructor, so stuff like this should just not happen.

But let's get back to the doctors, and my frequent "shopping" card at my hospital.  It takes very little for a doctor to look at my chart and see that when I am calling and asking a question, I am not trying to be difficult, but simply looking for a response.  I do not think that it is too much to ask that I receive a response in 24 hours.  So when I called my orthopedic doctor a while back and left a message that I was in a considerable amount of pain and it would be helpful to have the results, I was less than thrilled when I had not heard anything by the next day.  I called back almost 48 hours later and was told that in order to find out my MRI results I would have to speak to radiology, and my orthopedic doctor would be given another message but that he was really busy (yes, I am aware of this, the first time I met with him I waited in the office for 2 1/2 hours...)  Radiology told me they would not give me the results as my doctor needed to give them to me, and so I was being bounced around like a ping-pong ball.  Oh, as far as my pain goes, they told me to increase the Advil and I could come in for a cortisone shot.  Um, no thanks.  I have had one of those (2 in fact) and they don't work.  Neither, for that matter, does the Advil... And I informed them that I really looked forward to coming in and waiting to be seen.  It just rocks.

I suddenly was reminded of 2006 and the preparation for my heart surgery.  I was not given direct answers, and often the answer that most people agreed upon was a run around response.  So, I consider myself an "expert" in the medical system, and I am continually disappointed.  There should be some kind of points card for frequent visitors (patients) at hospitals.  You know, those of us who unfortunately are more familiar with some aspects of the medical care system than our own doctors are.

I know that my circumstances are by no means unique.  Sadly, my situation (the lack of response, apathy, and wait time) probably happens to most people.  Why is it that when a doctor treats patient with respect that it is cause for celebration?  Or when a patient is seen within 5-10 minutes of the scheduled appointment it is considered "on time"?  Yes, there are many other variables at play here, and I am well aware of these (patients can be late too etc), but as a frequent patient I think that expectations and outcomes should be higher. 


Oh the places we'll go! Part 3

Honeymoon... Africa. Why not.  And we were deep into the bush of Selous.  Deep into southern Tanzania surrounded by some of the most pristine beauty I have every seen in my life.  People gasp, their eyes widen with delight, and they often oohhh and ahhh in delight after hearing about our adventures.  Yes, it was THAT amazing.  Yes, we DID see the animals.  And actually, yes, the "tent" that we stayed in was exceptionally beautiful, while being both luxurious and rustic at the same time.  But all the while, our surroundings reminded us of where we were, and we were able to stay in the moment.

We always knew that we were being watched, and that added an element of mystery (and often unease) to the trip...

Hippo-in-water 

We learned that we could easily become fodder at any given moment...

Lion

Being still and quiet often had its advantages...

Single-ele

Saddle-back-stork
 

The definition of beauty defied imagination...

Women-on-beach-2
 
And we were able to say that we went off into the sunset...

Lake-sunset
 


Oh the places We'll Go Part 2

Selous
 

Selous... Southern Tanzania.  It was winter, and as the sun warmed our skin and the ground below, our feet crunched on the fallen leaves, and gave us the impression on fall in New England.

We were greeted by warm smiles and cool face towels.

We were met morning, noon, and night with exceptional views of the lake.

Table

We were offered live entertainment at a moments notice...

Giraffes 

And were introduced to the locals...

Crocs

And this was only on day one!  

After sundowners and dinner we were escorted back to our tent by an Askari under a clear dark sky and we searched for the Southern Cross all the while peering into the night for what might come out.  We looked out into the night, waiting and listening for what might come... waiting for the next day.
  


Oh the places we'll go! Part 1

It was the first of many things.  The first time in several years that we had gotten away for a substantial period of time, the first time to East Africa, the first time on safari, and perhaps the most important - the first holiday as a married couple.  I started the planning with Zanzibar and worked my way from there.  It sounded exotic, and like a place that I might like.  I knew few people who had ever traveled to the island renowned for its spices and once ruled by the Sultan of Oman.  From Zanzibar, the sensible place to go (we quickly found out) was Tanzania.  We also learned rather fast from an amazing British Travel Company that we should go south.  

South? I asked?  But what about the migration?  The wildebeest?  The Serengeti?  

Do not worry, I was told, go South, go to Selous.

Selous?  What the hell and where the hell is Selous?  

Oh, it is wonderful.  It has the largest population of wild dogs and it is about 55,000 sq km (the largest game park in all of Africa).

Well, that was all fine and good, and lovely that it was the largest game park in all of the African Continent, but that also meant that there was a diminished chance of seeing the lions, the rhinos, the BIG FIVE!  

But, I was told... there were wild dogs.

I spent some time looking at the camp where we would be staying and quickly decided if nothing else, we would have some lovely lie-downs, and I would be in Africa, on safari, in style.  We were going to stay in a proper tent that zipped up and down and an outdoor shower, and since it was located on a lake, I would see crocodiles.  

OK - and then, then we would get to Zanzibar.  The Spice Island.  Beach, sun, and more beach.  I started to get excited, I started to plan, and to pack.  The list of shots was long...meningitis, tentanus (mine had run out), Hep A, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and of course the malaria pills.  But none of this mattered.  We were looking forward to the adventure of a lifetime.

It did not hit me until we were on the 12-seater airplane flying from Dar es Salaam to the middle of the Tanzanian Bush.  

DSCN0884
 

The little plane lifted off and left the city behind.  The 30 minute flight took us over lush green fields, hills, valleys, and the like and as we flew further south, the landscape started to change.  Since it is winter in sub-saharan Africa, the landscape had hues of pale greens, yellows, and browns.

Desk
 

and so it began...


A Pre-Wedding Ode

I learned a lot about the people in my life following my stroke and open heart surgery. You tend to quickly recognize who your true friends are and who are those people who are not so sure if they have the moral fiber to truly be there as you go throw a pretty life-changing experience.  Not to make light of it, but I think that the same is true of weddings.

I have heard  that weddings can bring out the worst in people.  True.  I have witnessed this first hand, but more often than not, it is at other people's wedding.  I am lucky enough to say that for the most part I have not witnessed this behavior, unless you want to include irrational rants and raves from the bride-to-be about scheduling, planning, and those tiny little details that one feels the desire to go over time and time and time again.  So, aside from that I have been - for the most part - lucky.  Lucky to the point that I have realized more and more every day how incredible the people are in my life.  We have an amazing group of friends and family, people with whom we have laughed and cried; people who we have yelled at, and they have yelled right back.  People who are wise enough to tell us when we are being foolish, and people who are innocent enough to think that aside from all of our faults we are super heros.

Between now and the day, we are allowed to behave like fools and feel like we have superhero powers. Because in my heart, we do have those powers.  We can, and will, do anything.

Shadow
 


The Heart of the Matter

I suppose we are not really following what "most" people consider tradition.  You see originally we had an idea of renting a house in Spain and inviting about 20 people and getting married there.  However that idea was quickly dismissed and we are now onto an entirely different adventure.  Not better, not worse, just different.  That being said, we are doing our best to incorporate as many elements as we can from our original idea.  We still have a small concept.  Yes, the guest list has grown from 20 to about 120, and the location is national versus international.  But we hope to still capture the intimacy of the original intent.

All of this aside, I find it fascinating that as intimate as a wedding is, everyone has an opinion about how and what should occur in June (and I mean everyone!).  

I was recently asked by an almost stranger about my wedding plans.  When she found out that I was not going to be married in a church, a slight gasp escaped from her lips.  When she heard that there was no wedding party, she seemed utterly confused.  And at the mention of no sit down dinner or wedding favors she simply said, "Well...that is unique."  Yes, thank you, it is unique and rather fabulous.

Everyone has an opinion, and while some are really better left unsaid (although they make for great stories) there are some that I have taken to heart.  These are the opinions from my dearest friends.  Many of them have told me time and again how important it is to do what we want to do.  To not have the wedding that other people want us to have but to have the wedding that we want to have.  I do not want to look around on that day or think about that day in the weeks, months, or years to come with any regrets, and at the rate that we are going I do not think that will be the case.  At the end of the day it is about celebration, love, and our friends and family. (Oh, and it is kind of about the cake too...)  But most importantly, whether the guest list is 2, 20, or 120, it is about the two of us.


Flying on Fear Part One

Trapeze
 You know, it really did seem like a good idea at the time.  A great idea in fact.  I like adventures– I mean I did spend a few years working at Club Med, and still day dream about being back there doing the Crazy Signs in front of hundreds of guests every single night.  I SCUBA, I really REALLY want to go cage diving in Cape Town with Great White Sharks, and I even drank the tap water on a regular basis when I lived in Mexico.  So when my good friend Steevy asked me if I would take a Trapeze Class at the Boston Trapeze School with her, I jumped at the idea.  It sounded like a great time, a lot of fun, and a way to burn a few extra calories on a Saturday morning.  When I told her that I would do it, she seemed genuinely surprised.  “Seriously, you will really do it?  Are you just humoring me?”  I reassured her that I was not humoring fun of her, that I would in fact do it, and that we would sign up for February 13, 2010.  Done.

The weeks passed, and I told a few people what I would be up to mid- February.  If Carrie Bradshaw flew on the trapeze with the same group in a “Sex and the City” episode, I could do it too…  When I told my nephews, they thought it sounded pretty cool, and remarked that perhaps I could climb a tree as fast as they could follow my lesson.  My mother was less enthusiastic and told me that defying gravity was one of the stupidest things that I could be doing especially following a stroke and open-heart surgery.

Well, stupid or not, we made our reservation, and really there was no turning back.  The location was a bit odd.  The Boston Trapeze School is not located underneath a big top, but instead inside a furniture store - Jordan's Furniture Store.  Now I am not sure if you have ever been to Jordan's Furniture, but it is not your typical furniture store.  This is not Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn.  No.  This particular place was like Wally World meets Willy Wonka on a few hits of LSD.  That was what Steevy and I walked into on February 13. 

When we walked into the furniture store we were greeted by the blaring sounds of music, the smell of sugar and waffle cones from the ice cream and Jelly Belly stores that were nestled right near the trapeze school, and blinding multi-colored psychedelic lights of a waterfall lightshow that was located behind the giant trapeze net.  I thought that this was a furniture store?  Yeah, and an IMAX movie theater, and a restaurant, and a Jelly Belly store, and a trapeze school. Oh, and it kind of looked like the first scene of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy landed in Oz on top of the Wicked Witch.  It was that scary too…

After checking in with our waiver forms, lining up, and getting harness belts cinched so tightly around our waists that Steevy almost had a panic attack (she said it reminded her of her wedding dress) we were given a brief overview of what to expect.  One of our instructors (let's call him John) pointed to the platform that towered 4 stories above us and explained where to stand and where to not stand.  He pointed out that when we climbed up the stairs to the top, we were to move towards the edge of the platform, hang our toes over the edge, lean forward, stick our bellies and chest out and stand up straight. Once we had both hands on the bar (and one of the instructors was holding on to our “corset”), we were supposed to jump 6 inches off of the platform at which point another instructor  (we will call her Cindy) would let go of the corset and away we would fly.  As we were flying through the air, at another instructor’s cue (Amy), we were supposed to bring our legs up (and hook them around the bar), take our hands off (and suspend upside down while swinging), then bring our hands back off, kick forwards and backwards and forwards, and dismount with a back flip.  Yes, this was all on the very first try.  Very fitting for day 1 of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  That was it - the whole deal explained in 15 minutes to 10 people.

We were sent over to a row of chairs, and 3 people climbed up to the top at a time.  Each time 1 person came down off of the net, another person would go up.  Since I was 7th on the list, I had some time to think about what I was about to do, and I had time to watch what everyone else did.

As we sat and waited and watched the others fly, it looked so easy:  a grab of the bar, a bend in the knees, and after a little jump there was take off – the flying commenced.  After flying from one side of the net to the other instructions were given: "Bring the knees up."  "Take hands off." "Put your hands on." "Legs down." "Swing your legs forward, backward, forward, and back flip."   Seemed pretty easy, all the while flying through the air suspended by sheer muscle and will (and the safety harness just in case...)  More people flew and the line kept moving up.  And then came my turn.


Dancing, Celebrating, and the Big Day

OK - so it really is not a secret that I am getting married.  And to my closest friends and family it is not a secret that I love to plan.  I have in fact always loved to plan and never been afraid of events or parties.  In fact, when I was quite young, I planned a surprise 20th Wedding Anniversary for my parents.  They, of course, had to pay for the event, but I managed to find the caterer, pick out the perfect guest list and people actually came to the house, my parents where indeed surprised (in a good way) and it worked!

So now I am planning one of the most important events ever, and it is less than 6 months away.  Last fall, when I bought my first 2 Bridal Magazines, I did so with trepidation.  You see, I am rather superstitious.  I have never purchased a bridal magazine before last fall.  I chalked it up to bad luck.  When I placed the magazines down in front of the cashier it was almost as if I was buying pornography or the like.  Don't get me wrong - I have danced my fingers over the pages of such magazines thousands of times before, but never, ever had I actually laid down cold hard cash for the stuff!

So with the magazines - and yes, I only bought 2 because I quickly realized that once you buy 1, there is very little content that differs from one to the next - I started off of my planning adventures.  There is the layout of the event, the colors, and the atmosphere...

Large_image

(image from www.theknot.com)

A decision to find a color that will coordinate with the theme, the room and the invitations that will pull the whole event together...

Katherine
(Design by Katharine MacIntyre Navins, Tallow Studio)

The flowers, the music, and the cake... and then there is the decision of the first dance, if dancing is something that you choose to do...

TangoOutline
(image from http://www.fortnet.org/tfc/Pictures/tangoOutline.gif)

However, it is all too easy to become caught up in the planning and loose track of how and why you started on this journey in the first place.  In the end, the flowers will not last, the rentals are returned to their rightful owner, and the crumbs of the cake are swept up from the ballroom floor.  These items are all secondary to the celebration.  The celebration of being with the most amazing man in the world, the man who came into my life and quite literally saved it.  The man with whom I will spend the rest of my life dancing and celebrating.

Barcelona