Monthly Archives: December 2011

Starting Fresh!!!

My Inspirational Poster Of Fives

It’s New Years Eve tonight and I thought rather than go out and play dodge the spot check, like every other year, I thought I would stay in and put together a new plan for the New Year.  This year the new plan is to tear down and rebuild a new, better me. Oh I know what your thinking. Your thinking that I’m talking about losing a few pounds, eating better and exercising more. The usual stuff that every body says they’re going to do, but never does. Yes I’m talking about those things, but also much, much more.

Over the years I have been compiling websites. Sites that Inspire and Motivate. Sites that “Train your Brain”. Sites that teach you how to break bad habits and rebuild new ones. Sites about learning. Sites about…well you get the picture. So over the last couple of years I’ve collected these sites and I’ve occasional looked at one or two of them in passing. But until now I have never made a concerted effort to categorize and use them to actual be a better person. I had the usual excuses, my job, my family, not enough time, I really, really wanted to watch this one movie on TV, but that has all changed as of six months or so ago. As some may know I left work due to my CHD and so now I have time. I can do all the things I’ve been saying I’m going to do some day when I have the time.

Lets start with the start. The reason to do this and the reasons to keep doing it. Obviously the reason to do it is to be a better person. We all have that in mind, but somehow a couple of weeks in we slip into the same habits that we have always had. This is where all those inspirational and motivational sites that I’ve been bookmarking all this time come in. I have used them to create a poster for myself. It is my poster of Five’s. It has 5 things to start my day, 5 things to do every day, 5 things to stop caring about,  my 5 favorite of the Dalai Lama’s 18 rules for a better life, my 5 favorite pictures, My 5 Favorite Quotes, My 5 Favorite stress relievers and a place to write a goal for the day. The poster is 3 feet by 4 feet and laminated so I can write on it with a dry erase marker.  I will get up and read it every morning. I am going to put a version of it on my phone so I can look at it through out the day. I think it’s great and I’m thinking I will spend the money and time to do a new one every year.

Over the last few years I’ve gotten a little slow in the brain department. Not so as anyone would notice, but I’ve noticed and it bothers me. I have not really challenged myself intellectually in quite a few years. So on to the “train your brain” sites. I want to learn to speed read this year as well as have better recall. I have several speed reading sites and some that play memory games with you to make you better at recall. Starting tomorrow. I will sort through the speed reading ones and spend 30 minutes each day learning to do so. I will also spend 30 minutes playing memory games. At worst nothing will improve and I will be entertained for an hour instead of bored. At best I will become one of those memory gurus who flips through the pages of a book and with total recall can rattle off the contents of any page.

Lastly I will break bad habits and build new good habits. From what I understand, It takes anywhere from 9 to 13 weeks to break or build a habit. That is get to the point where you do it without having to think about doing it, in fact if you don’t do it you feel as if you have forgotten something. I want to do this to become a nicer, more compassionate person. I also want to be able to think outside the box…at least think outside the box I have built for myself. I want to look at the world in a newer, different way. I do that some what now, I see something I think something and then think how can I look at this differently. Until this year that has been a conscious effort on my part. If I haven’t already gotten myself in that frame of mind I just see things the way I see them and that is not always in the best light. I am hoping that perseverance along with inspiration and motivation will push me through these habit changes, but I’m not counting on it. They have all three let me down in the past. This time I have a specific website that I’ve found (Thanks ) that should give me the edge. Here it is What this site does is to allow you to automatically send yourself an email reminding you to do or not do something every day. It is ingenious. Instead of me having to remember that I should eat a salad every day I can get an email shouting it at me in case I forget. Yeah me! I plan on being the biggest nag I’ve ever had to deal with.

That is my rough plan for creating a better me this New Year. I AM going to spend time putting down a schedule for myself so that there are no excuses. I hope you have luck with your New Years resolutions this year, after all It’s 2012 the last year for us to be alive according to the Mayans.


Christmas Blog (Not)

Why I have sleep issues?

I speak to a lot of people with CHD and one of the recurring themes in many of our lives is a lack of sleep.  For some reason people who are affected with CHD seem to have a hard time falling asleep.  It seems to be quite common for most of us. As you can probably suspect sleep is important to those of us with chronic heart issues as we work harder than most and their fore need to recharge the batteries. This is a recent finding for me, I’ve always attributed my sleep issues to being partly genetic (my Mother has bouts of insomnia) and partly my work schedule when I was younger (I worked third shift for over 8 years).  As it so happens that may in fact not be the reason for my sleep issues.

My own person issue with sleep seems to be having a hard time falling asleep. I can’t seem to shut my brain off when I lay down. I’m often up until 4 or 5 in the morning thinking about what I need to do the next day, what I did the day before, where is my life heading, and general fantasizing and day dreaming. The what if’s seem to get the better of me and I can’t seem to stop them. I have often gotten up at 2 in the morning to write down the lyrics of a song complete with chords to go along with them. Then I wake up in the morning not being able to make heads or tails of what I have written and thrown the whole thing away.

I have tried various techniques to try to get to sleep. In my life I have tried meditating, herbal remedies like Melatonin, warm milk and honey, a cup of Chamomile tea, a shot of booze at bed time and none of it seemed to work on a regular basis. Currently I take Clonazepam (a mild form of Valium) and that seems to work more often than not. However it’s not my favorite as waking up the next day is like trying to claw your way out of deep hole.

This really concerns me these days. If I don’t get a good nights sleep I not only feel exhausted the following day, but it now manifests itself physically. It takes less activity to make me start breathing harder or (mouth breathing) as I call it. It also seems to take much longer for me to recover my breath. This wasn’t always so. In my teens and twenties I could go days with very little sleep and it never seemed to effect me. Often I would sleep like 4-6 in the morning and pop awake to go for a 20 mile bike ride then grab some breakfast go to school. In the afternoon I would grab my rifle and hit the woods, bush whacking my way through brush and swamps hunting until dark. Slowly the woods gave way to the gym where I would work out for 2 hours a day, lifting weights, and running.

So as this sleep deprivation has been going on for most of 40 years now, it’ something I think that we need to get control of. I’m heading to Boston’s BACH unit on Wednesday to see Dr. Mullen. This will be one of the many things I want to discuss with them. I’m hoping that, being one of the first Adult Congenital Cardiac Care centers in the country they may have some answers for me….

P.S. I woke up at 3am and sat down to write this after trying to sleep for 2 and a half hours.

Old Friends and Good Times

As a CHD patients we sometimes have a hard time making friends. Sometimes we meet people who are afraid to get to know us or think we will bring some sort of unwanted drama into their lives. Some people we meet aren’t sure of how to treat us, especially if we are having a particularly bad time at the moment. And of course some people just flat-out don’t believe that we have a heart condition and so mark us as liars and want nothing to do with us.

I have been fortunate enough however to have made some great friends. Friends that I have had for nearly half my life. Friends that take the time to stay in touch. Being the Holidays this is the perfect excuse to visit and catch up with those wonderful people who have been in our lives forever.

Last night I took that opportunity and I am so glad that I did. Being in a heart slump so to speak and not being able to lead the active life I want to right now, it gets hard to get out and visit with people. Last night though, last night was a good night. An old friend threw a Christmas party and so that’s where I headed. I felt really good as I left the house and headed out. I got there and what a great group of people. My friend and her family, as well as another friend that I hadn’t seen in years. There where new people there as well. And I got the chance to play a little guitar with a couple of other guys. It was a fun time.

The thing that makes it great though was that I got to catch up with an old friend. A friend I had some great times with. We have been in touch now for a couple of years after losing touch for a number of years. If you have old friends that you have lost touch with, maybe the Holiday Season is the perfect time for you to get a hold of them and renew that great old friendship. I know that I am lucky to have the friends that I have in my life.

Handling The Bad Stuff

Helen Keller ~ "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

I’m not sure how to start this, so I’m going to just jump in.  As some of you may or may not know I am in the process of being evaluated for a double valve replacement or the possibility of transplant.  I got some bad news on Tuesday morning.  It arrived in the mail in the form of a letter from my Adult Congenital Clinic Doctor.  The letter was written to m regular Cardiologist, but knowing that I want a copy of  everything she sent one along to me.  Here is a run down of what was in there.

It basically said that she feels that my body has been compensating for my poor heart function incredibly well for most of my life and now  it can no longer do that.  She feels that it is now decompensating and that even though my Left Ejection Fraction is much better than it was the last time I was considered for this surgery, the fact that I am decompensating makes me a poorer candidate than I was back then. Back then they refused to do the surgery.  What’s worse is that although she doesn’t have numbers to confirm it, she thinks I may have developed Pulmonary Hypertension, which would make me a poor candidate for transplant.

I was really bummed out on reading this news.  Essentially I crawled back into bed and stayed there until Thursday morning all the while having myself a nice little pity party.  Thursday I dragged myself out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.  It just isn’t in my make up to stay down.  I made some apple spice muffins and a loaf of rosemary, garlic bread.  Yesterday though was my really good day.  I went to see my Primary Care Physician for some Social Security stuff.  Afterwards I went down to pick up some prescriptions and on the car ride between the two I thought about what I was going to say to the Doctors in Boston when I meet with them in December.  I’m determined to not let this news stop me.  I know I haven’t been feeling well lately, but I’m pretty sure they would be amazed at how far I can still push myself.  Plus a positive attitude is a definite for getting better.  So regardless of what they say I will beat this.  If I have to go back every three months and run all day in between to get in better shape I will.  Helen Keller once said “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” and i believe it.