Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reasons to Celebrate

It has been a crazy few weeks.  A week ago today, on a Thursday afternoon, I met with my cardiologist to go over the results of the cardio testing he had done the week before.  The testing had been done because of recent bouts with extremely low blood pressure, an irregular EKG, and chest pain.  The PET stress test showed some low blood flow that could indicate narrowed arteries.  The physician assistant had attended me during the testing, and he was the initial person to go over the results. He suggested that the next step should be a heart catheterization.  Stunned, but trying to keep my wits about me and evaluate my options in a rational state of mind, I listened to all he had to say about the test.  I then told him I would not elect to have the procedure.  I didn't think it seemed necessary given my personal and family history.  He didn't disagree with me, but said I had to talk to the doctor who would be in momentarily.  He then excused himself to talk with my doctor.

Soon, my dear cardiologist, a man for whom I have great respect, admiration, and affection strode into the room, came directly to my side, put his arm around my shoulder and looked me in the eye while he said these words, "Sally, we're doing the heart catheterization." I guess my mind had been changed!  He next asked me when I was going on that vacation where I was doing that blogging thing with my friends.  (I'd told him about my trip the week before when we'd met before the testing.)  "I'm leaving tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m." I said.  "Ok, you can go.  When are you coming back?"  "Monday," I said.  "I want you in here next week for the heart cath,"  he said.

And so, on Tuesday morning, after a wonderful trip to Vashon Island to meet with my blogging friends, I arrived bright and early at the hospital for the procedure to check on those arteries in my heart.  

I must admit that I was anxious at times throughout my entire trip to Washington.  I had a horrendous rush to get from one gate to the next when I landed in Denver to fly to Seattle.  This came after being restricted from any exercise for three weeks.  "Oh great," I thought, "I'm going to have a massive heart attack at DIA."  I didn't.  I made it.  I made it through the flight, and landed safely in Seattle.  Once I was with my blogging buddies, I felt like I was surrounded by companionship, support, and understanding.  

I walked into this comfortable, inviting main living room at Lavender Hill Farm, and felt like I was back at a much loved home.

I was tired, so tired, once I arrived at our destination.   Linda (Bag Lady in Waiting) and DJan (DJanity and Eye on the Edge) had safely navigated the task of picking me up at the airport, finding the ferry, and found a place for us to eat.  Thankfully, I didn't have to do all of that.  I just sat back and went along for the ride.    Once the three of us were inside the farm house, I sat down in that chair that Jann (Benchmark 60) is sitting in on the right sided of the fireplace, snuggled up in a blanket and fell asleep.  

Soon, Deb( Catbird Scout) and Sandi (Flying Into the Light) arrived, and it was time to hang out in the kitchen while we helped (a little) Sandi make dinner.  Who can be anxious and worried around these two?

As the weekend progressed, I made up my mind that I was going to put that dreaded procedure that was awaiting me when I returned home on the back burner.  I was not going to let my fear and anxiety rob me of enjoying this trip.

Deb found a few places for us to explore, and so after breakfast on Saturday morning, we took off to see what we could see.  The path of our first trek, a walk in the woods, was covered with leaves.  

I'm a Colorado girl, so I'm not used to seeing ferns growing up along side the pathways,

or orange mushrooms, 

or trees covered in moss

or leaves the size of dessert plates, 

or sights like this.

At sea level, I could have walked forever it seemed.  My heart was calm, no fluttering was going on, no rushing, and no chest pain was felt.  "Maybe, I need to move to a lower elevation," I thought.  I was surrounded by such beauty, and support, Jann helped down the slippery slopes, and such friendship, that I honestly felt the healthiest, and happiest that I'd felt in many, many months.  It was true, this day, this trip, was good for my heart in every way.

From our walk in the woods, we went to the shore.  

We saw an eagle in flight.  I collected rocks and sea shells with Deb and Sandi.  I don't think DJan picked up any rock or shells.  I think she is not one to weigh herself down with such things.  If she filled her pockets with rocks and sea shells, how could she hike those high mountains and jump out of airplanes?  

On our walk on the shore, we found a large dead jelly fish.

Jann and Linda kept watch from the stairs leading to the shore.

I felt like a young girl again as I explored the surrounding with my girlfriends.  My heart felt light.  My spirit of adventure and excitement seemed to be returning after a long absence.  

Last year, I came home from Vashon Island with a reminder of the weekend: a gift from Deb.  She had found this heart shaped rock at the shore where we walked a year ago.  This heart shaped rock, a reminder of Deb, sits in a place of honor on my desk where I write.  It reminds me of the hearts that are knitted together because we are bloggers who bonded in a sisterhood of understanding and support.

This year, before we left, we were all given another treasure by Deb.  This is what I found on my breakfast plate on Sunday morning: a beautiful new heart.

With these all these memories stored carefully in my heart of flesh, I somehow went into that surgical procedure on Tuesday morning with no anxiety or fear.  I was perfectly calm, and that was before they gave me the drugs!  Actually, during a cardiac catheterization, one is awake.  I was given versed, but I remember most of the procedure and found it not to be that troublesome.  At times, I would feel something and the nurse would say, "They are looking around in your heart dear, you will feel that."  

Now for the good news:  my arteries are "as smooth as a baby's bottom."  That is a direct quote from the doctor.  He said I will live to be 100 with the arteries I have.  When I told him my mother is 97, he said, "You got her genes."  

I still have the occasional rapid beats, and the arrhythmia that can sometimes throw me off balance, but for now, those problems are also under control without medication.  

I spent the last two days recovering from my trip and my procedure.  I've done a lot of reading, and taken naps, and been pampered by my hubby.  I am doing very well.  Thanks for all of your good wishes, dear blogging friends.

I know I have much to celebrate: good friends, a heart that is free from blockages or plaque, good genes, a supportive and loving husband, loving children and grandchildren, and much improved medical reports in all areas that have been troublesome in the past year.  I now must get in even better shape if I'm going to be around for another 30+ years.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Weekend to Remember ~ Time With Blogging Friends

I began blogging in November of 2008.  I thought perhaps my mother would read my blog, but beyond that, I didn't think anyone else would ever read it.  I decided to blog because I wanted to practice the discipline of writing.  Little did I know the worlds that blogging would open to me.  Little did I know how important my blogging community would become to me.

My very first blog reader was Jann from Benchmark 60.  That's Jann, in the photo below.  She is dressed in green and sitting in the middle on the left side of the photo. Back in those early days of blogging,  Jann commented on my blog and then encouraged me to write more blogs.  I owe my blog presence to her.  In time, in the mystical way that is the way of the blogosphere, I began to read the blogs of many other bloggers and form friendships with the blog writers.  

A year ago, two of the ladies in photo below met and decided that the rest of us should meet and spend the weekend together.  We all rented a house on Vashon Island in Washington State and spent a fabulous weekend getting to know each other.  I wrote about it here:  Vashion Island 2012.  That weekend was so magical and special, that we talked of meeting again in a year.  We decided you can't improve on a perfect location, so this past weekend, we again met at our wonderful destination spot, Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island.  

Breakfast out on Vashon Island
I flew in from Colorado on Friday.  We spent Friday afternoon and evening, all day Saturday, and this morning together.  We talked, laughed, read, ate, walked, and just had a wonderful time catching up with each other.  This year the weather was cooler than last.  We spent a lot of time in front of the fireplace.

The "glow chair" was moved from its spot by the window 
so we could sit together in our new favorite spot.  
The sun did not shine on our wonderful yellow chair this year.

We could not see Mt. Rainier.
We did not see blue skies.
We saw fog and mist.
It was all beautiful.

We were also rewarded with beautiful fall foliage.

The view from the porch was stunning even if it did rain. 

The lavender bed are not blooming, but lavender is always beautiful in any season to me.

Orange is the color I will carry home with me.

It seemed to punctuate every landscape
as we visited the Farmers' Market,
walked down the main street,
hiked in the woods.

I have wanted to store the colors of this fall in my heart this year. 
Since the leave just began to change, I've wanted to drink in the colors every chance I got.

I was especially blessed to see the rich colors of fall in the beautiful northwest this year.
I won't forget the red, the oranges, and the vibrancy I felt on this special weekend.

These two feed the soul and the body.
Deb, in pink, just saw some wonderful bird outside the kitchen window. I was able to capture the look of awe on her face.

DJan, the adventurer, in the sky and on the shore, led the walk we took along the shore, and took my arm and helped me walk up the steep hills.

There is so much more I want to write about, but I must get some rest.
Tomorrow, I fly home.
The doctor cleared me for this trip.
My friends said he had to let me come because the time would be
good for my heart in every way.
It was.  Indeed, it was.
Thank you dear Vashionistas for another wonderful time together.
I can't wait until next year.

I will arrive home Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday morning, at 7:30 a.m.,
I will be meeting my cardiologist at the hospital.
He gave me a reprieve, for a few days, but as soon as I get home,
he will be doing a heart catheterization on me.
I am worried about the procedure because no one like to have medical procedures.
I am reassured when I consider that the doctor did let me go on this trip, so he must not be too worried, just worried enough to check everything out.  

In the meantime, I will trying to take this advice:
Keep calm 
Dream On.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trick or Treat or Smashing Pumpkins?

This morning as I was driving out of our little village, I saw a man standing next to his parked car taking photos of a herd of deer that were munching on the manicured lawns in our neighborhood.  "Must be a tourist," I thought.  Those of us who live here see deer in our yards all day long.  It is quite commonplace to walk around our block of homes and see a herd of five to ten deer grazing near the sidewalk.

I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with these creatures.  At times, I am enthralled with watching them.  This spring, as I awoke one morning, my first sight of the day was of a few baby fawns scampering across the back lawn.  That is a delightful way to start the day.

Then, these creatures eat my flowers, and I am not a very happy lady.  I become determined to keep them from eating my delicate blooms by spraying everything with Liquid Fence.  Learning what plants they really don't like to eat, I concentrate on planting these.  Gardening is a challenge here.

During the spring of the year, we mainly see the doe.  At the beginning of spring, they appear to be quite thin except for their bulging midsections.  Soon, there are reports of one or two of them giving birth to baby fawns in the back yards of various neighbors.  

I must admit it is fun to watch the fawns grow and develop.  As summer progresses, it is interesting to watch the young bucks sprout antlers.  These antlers begin as little buttons and grow a bit bigger day by day.  Soon, these outgrowths are covered in velvet.  

Then, in early fall, the large buck suddenly appear.  I have no idea where they have been since late last fall.  The entire dynamic of the deer population seems to shift.  Life seems less carefree among the herds.  I notice a few of the doe begin to follow a large buck as he proudly and arrogantly walks through my back lawn area.  I also notice that the bucks claim a certain territory and begin to strip the plants of foliage that the other deer have mostly left alone on summer.  I finally give up in protecting my plants.  In fact, I pulled up all the remaining potted plants and placed some pumpkins on the porch as fall decorations.

Imagine my shock today when I glanced out the front door and saw this:

I was actually speaking to my husband on the phone when I noticed this big buck eating one of my pumpkins!  I had no idea deer liked pumpkins.  For some reason, I was pretty upset about this buck thinking he had the right to come up on my porch and claim this pumpkin for his dinner.

I tried to scare him away, but he just nonchalantly licked his chomps.

As you can see, I made quite an impression on him didn't impress him at all.

I hope you can watch the video.  If you can, notice how this creature is biting through that pumpkin.  I was quite intrigued with the power of those jaws.

Each month brings new sights in our neck of the woods.  It is October.  My neighbor asked me today if we get any trick or treaters.  I told her "no."  Last year, I didn't have one trick or treater on my doorstep.  I need to call her tomorrow and revise my answer.  We had trick or treaters early this year.  We had a buck on the porch who went beyond smashing our pumpkins.  He ate one!  

P.S.  I just mentioned to my husband that perhaps we should make sure we throw away the piece of pumpkin the buck left behind.  I don't want Mama Bear to come around and eat that!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


My cellphone rang this evening.
The screen on my smart phone told me the call was from my grandson Mason.
"Hi Mason."
"Hi Grandma.  You know how you said your were sending me some money for my birthday."
"Yes," I replied.

It turns out there wasn't any money in his birthday card.
"Let me check my checkbook," I said.
Sure enough.
There was a check made out to Gillian for her birthday money, 
but I had forgotten to write out Mason's check.

Oh how embarrassing!

His mother, my daughter, thought it was hilarious that I forgot to even write the check.
I guess I am losing it.
At least, I remembered it was his birthday.
I have five birthdays to remember in the span of a month.
Three birthdays in September and two in October

The story of my two October grandbabies...

One day fifteen years and nine months ago,
my daughter Amy called me with the wonderful news that she was going to be a mother.
I was so excited for her and for me.
I was thrilled at the prospects of having another grandchild.
However, with this wonderful news,
there was also a bit of an uneasy feeling in my heart.

My other daughter Keicha was trying to have a baby, but thus far, her attempts had been unsuccessful.
Just a month or so before Amy's happy phone call announcing that she was expecting,
Keicha had called in tears and told me she was trying in vitro fertilization one more time.
"If this attempt is unsuccessful, I'm not going through this again," she tearfully said.
Now, a month or six weeks later, Amy was pregnant.
"How will we tell Keicha?" I asked.

Still mulling over how to break the news of Amy's pregnancy to Keicha,
I answered a phone call from Keicha a few days later.
"Mom, I'm pregnant." was her happy news.
Only one egg was fertilized, but at least one egg was viable.
I let out a sigh of relief.
I then called Amy and told her she could call her sister with her happy news.
We had double happy news!

It was a bit of a scary few months in the first months of Keicha's pregnancy.
She was highly at risk of not seeing the pregnancy through.
Soon, it looked as if we would have two babies in October of 1998.

On October 4, 1998, my dear Mason Lloyd Hopfenspirger was born.
I was present at his birth, and even was blessed to witness it.
I was the very first person to see that boy.
That was a very special moment in my life.
Immediately, after his birth, there was a problem.
We were told he might not live through the night.
The next day, thank God,  all was well, and he looked like the healthiest baby in the nursery.
36 hours later, on October 6, 1998, my dear Gillian Marie Chapman was born.

Six weeks later, Keicha made the trip to Colorado from Utah for Thanksgiving so the cousins could meet for the first time.
Late at night, Keicha, Gillian, and Gillian's dad arrived.  I snapped a picture of the two girls showing off their new babies to each other.
I always laugh because each one only has eyes for her own child.

For the next photo, I had them both face the camera.

As you can see, I was one happy grandma with my arms full of two adorable grandbabies.

Over the years, these two cousins have had many photos taken together.
Aren't they cute?

Age five...

Mason hasn't always liked the attention and love that Gillian has shown him.
"It's embarrassing.  I don't want a picture!"

Gillian, Mason, Julie & Jason

There have been lots of fun times at Grandma Sally's jumping on the trampoline,

and dyeing Easter eggs.

This happens even now that they are teenagers and almost too cool to dye eggs.

Easter 2013

Easter candy tastes good at any age.

Hannah, Mason & Gillian
After the Easter egg hunt at Grandma's

They've gone from this
to this.

The table is getting a bit small.

This Easter, Mason showed Gillian some of his cooking talents.

All of my babies are growing up.
Gillian and Mason are standing side by side in this photo of all seven of my grandchildren.

Bridger, Parker, Regan, Jim holding Atticus, Sally holding Hannah, Gillian, Mason
It is time we had a new family portrait!

I know one thing these kids still love to do.
They love to go to the penny arcade in Manitou.
This past April, we made our trip to the arcade for fun times.

Gillian vamped it up in my sunglasses as Bat Woman.

Mason became the #1 Ice Cream Man.

They have outgrown the kiddie rides.
They are growing up way too fast.
Where has the time gone?

This year, I somehow managed to get both birthday cards in the mail for these two grandchildren who are so close in age, but I forgot to write out the check for Mason.  
I guess their old grandma is showing her age.

They are in ninth grade now.
The years have flown by so fast.
I hope they both always remember how much I love them and what a blessing they, and all of my grandchildren, have been to me.

Tonight, when I spoke to Mason, I asked, 
"When are you going to go get your driver's permit?"
His answer was a true sign of the times.
"As soon as the government is open again."

Come on congress.  I have two grandkids that you are impacting.
They want to get their driving permits.
They are now in ninth grade, the year that American civics is studied.
They aren't getting a very good lesson from you guys in congress.

I digress...
this post isn't a political commentary.
It is a a lesson in family history.

I will put a check in the mail tomorrow for Mason.
I hope he doesn't think that adults just can't be trusted these days.
I told him to look for a check from me in his card since I didn't make up to his house
 to celebrate his big day.
Oops, I forgot to put the check in the mail.
Please forgive me.
Gillian got her present.
Your's is on the way.

Gillian Marie & Mason Lloyd,
happy, happy birthday.
I love you.
Grandma Sally