Tag: health (Page 2 of 2)

lines of engagement



” . . . and so,” the cardiologist said in wrap-up mode after reviewing the results of the nuclear stress test, “i say you go straight to the hospital and let’s do a catherization tomorrow to see what’s going on.” armed with a direction, i launched into native jeannemode, directing my brother-in-law to go to the airport to fetch our son who was flying in from colorado; calling our daughter, alerting her to the change in plans; and plugging my phone in to recharge the battery for a few minutes. that done, i exhaled and said, “i feel better now.” to which hubs said, “this isn’t about you. this is about me.”

a simple statement of truth delivered from a man who seldom redirects the spotlight on himself. and let me tell you: those 8 truthful words unleashed a cacophony of voices past, hissing and spitting and chiming in to remind me of things they’ve told me repeatedly in years gone by: who do you think you are, missy? nice girls don’t talk about themselves. good mothers sacrifice. you’re bossy. you’re manipulative. good girls don’t say bad things. good girls let people talk about themselves. you’re too sensitive. you need to think more than feel. why are you focusing on that – it’s not important. this is not about you. you’re too self-absorbed. lighten up.

and a whole lot more.

that nasty, piercing chorus has chipped, chirped, and harped at me ever since. i second-guess every sentence that contains a personal pronoun. i replay various happenings in my life and find the aha’s – you were, too [insert horrendously selfish behavior of choice]. but mostly, i ponder where we separate and where we come together. where is the line drawn between andy and me? where is the us? we’ve always had spaces in our togetherness, and true: it’s his body, it’s his life, but this sure seems to be about me, too.

drawing boundaries, they call it – something i’ve never excelled at, honestly. i’m good at empathy. lean towards the inclusive more than exclusive. i shop for cards and gifts, but they’re always from “us”. i can’t watch shows like america’s funniest home videos. i compare other people’s experiences to my own. i learn from other people’s stories. when my kids were in high school, i read the books on their required reading lists so we could talk about them (and yes, i was accused of living vicariously).

for the past week-and-a-half, i’ve wrested with the lines separating wife from mother; caring from smothering; support from dictating; allowing from detaching. i’ve pondered where and after much (and i do mean much) consideration, a lightbulb: i see lines as suggestions. i tweeted it, given the few times my realizations fit comfortably into the 140-character space. “for crossing or guiding?” asked my twitter friend mrs. mediocrity. “both,” i told her.

lines in a coloring book? suggestions.

lines on the blank page? suggestions.

lines in the sand? suggestions . . . tinged with warnings.

line outside the ladies room? suggestion to station a friend to guard the door and use the men’t room..

and that circular, insulating, would-be impenetrable line around hubs and his heart issues? a suggestion for separation that after much consideration i’ve decided i’m not buying into. his heart may be the one that now houses a stent and his heart may be the one that endured the catherization and angioplasty, but over the past 36 years, 10 months, and 8 days, the line between our hearts has faded.

and i am not interested in drawing it back. period.





when it’s time for a new car, i go through a grieving process because i love my cars – love them, i tell you. i drive my cars an average of 14 years, and log hundreds of thousands of miles on them. we have a relationship, my car and me. i take good care of my car, really good care. i keep her clean inside and out. i deal with only the finest mechanic – someone i was referred to by someone i love, someone who loves me back. my car gets her oil changed the first week of every quarter, regardless of what the little sticker says. i keep her in new shoes, new brakes, new batteries. i keep my car happy and she, in return, gets me and people i care about where we want to go and back. safely.

as much as i value my wheels, i find it odd that folks spend more time looking for a new car than they spend looking for a doctor . . .

when my husband’s blood pressure spiked for no apparent reason, we headed to the primary care office because the insurance company says we don’t know a thing about shopping for a cardiologist, and we might choose one that, given our particular policy, is out of our price range. we made an appointment, arrived 15 minutes before the appointed hour on the appointed day, then waited 45 minutes beyond the agreed-upon time to get some face time with the primary care doc. (not necessarily eye contact, mind you, but we do catch a glimpse of his face.)

in the precious 10 minutes allotted us, we asked for the name of a good cardiologist because obviously hubby’s heart’s gone wonky, and we didn’t study the heart in this context, in the classes we took, or in the lives we’ve led.

“give us a name,” we asked, “tell us who can help us.”

primary care filled out the paperwork and gave it to his “scheduling girl” without telling us the name or phone number of the person who will be calling us. we didn’t even talk about what criteria he used to decide that this one particular person is The One We Should See. does he beat you at tennis once a week, primary care? did she graduate at the top of her class? do you belong to the same church or investment club? or does this person you’re sending us to pay the highest referral fee?

we want the name of the person you’d send your mother or your dad or your wife or yourself to see.

a  week goes by, and we’ve heard nothing, so we call the primary care office and we’re told oh, they’ve been trying to call, but well, they’re just so busy, you know. when i point out that is the very last thing we want to hear, they are dumbfounded. (yes, i did take the time to explain.) hours later, we are informed that we have an appointment with somebody 2 weeks from now. oh – and by the way, it’s an hour away. nobody ever asked us if that would be a good day and time for us, if we’re even going to be in town, if we’re willing to drive. our time is obviously not valuable. our health and peace of mind of no concern.

primary care dude and crew, here’s the thing that’s overlooked far too often to suit me: we are your customer.

that’s right: i said CUSTOMER. i know you prefer the word “patient” because it’s familiar, and there’s something so elevated about it. “customer” is so common, and there’s not the embedded hierarchy as in the word “patient.”

well, we’ll take it from here, thank you very much. we’ll find our own cardiologist. we’ll ask family members who they would suggest we see. we’ll get a suggestion from knowledgeable people to whom we are more than a car payment.

we get permission from the insurance company, we make our own appointment, getting in more than a week earlier at a time that’s mutually convenient. yes, we’re still driving an hour, but it’s our decision. a choice we made.

we’ll see you soon, joe the cardiologist who studied the other workings of the heart. we’ll see you tomorrow, actually, and i want you to know this: i have spent more than half my life with this man. we have a mere 36 years’ worth of miles on us at this point. and we have miles to go before we sleep. miles, i tell you. chunks of miles.

consider our first meeting an interview. we’re not committing to a lifetime together – at least not yet – and you should probably know that i’m not afraid to fire doctors. i’ve done it before when my loved ones weren’t being well cared for. oh, and i should probably mention that we’re auditioning your staff tomorrow, too.

i’ve been told i have authority issues with the medical community. call it whatever you want, but i am not afraid to ask you to call me by my first name, and i’m equally unafraid to call you by your first name in return because that levels the playing field. i am not afraid to remind you that our differences right here, right now come down to the fact that we took different courses in college. i know you were taught differently, but then maybe you had an incomplete education. maybe they should have taught you the basics of customer service.

you are providing a service we are in need of. you have knowledge we can use. you weren’t born with this knowledge, you weren’t annointed with it. you simply did what the rest of us did to learn the invaluable things we know: you studied, you read, you took notes and tests, then you went out into the world and that’s when the real learning started.

some of the best business relationships are pillared by the same things that support other lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships: empathy, respect, listening, and genuine caring. those other workings of the heart that we‘ve studied, read about, took notes, and been tested on.

we may appear cool, calm, and collected tomorrow, but make no mistake: we are afraid. you’ve been around this block many times before, but it’s our first time on this particular corner. we want and need your knowledge. we want and need at least one good reason to feel confident in your abilities. we want and need a reason to trust you, to feel comfortable following your suggestions, and we don’t build that kind of relationship just by looking at the framed certificates hanging on your walls or the top of your head as you remain bent over your clipboard.

when we show up at your office tomorrow, here’s a little something to keep in mind: we’ll be kicking tires and taking you out for a test drive. i don’t care how many cup holders you have or if you have sirius radio, but i do want to give you some idea of what we’re looking for. i sure do hope you’re The One We’re Looking For, joe the cardiologist, because there’s not much i hate more than car shopping.


small things/big things


today was the (self-avowed and self-allowed) last day of being sick, so i only have 2 little illuminations gleaned from today . . .

i come from a long line of women who know that in every illness, you eventually reach a point where the best remedy is to take a hot shower, shave your legs, wash your hair, and put on clean clothes – especially clean underwear since you’ll now be going out and what if, god forbid, you should be hit by a car.

the end stages of availing myself of that remedy led to:

i also come from a long line of women (the other side of my family orchard) who save things. things aren’t worn out, they rust out. when my childless great aunt lucy died, i could’ve filled a dumpster with the boxes of colorful silk undies, worn only by the tissue paper wrapping. if she tried them on at the store, it was the only time those gorgeous garments felt the touch of skin.

and i can’t even count high enough to tell you how many boxes of tissues i found. had to throw them all away because by the time i found them, they’d become trees again.

so you see why finishing a jar of body cream – scooping out the very last bit – was a near milestone for me. i’ve had that particular jar of lotion going on five years, and just in the past year did i vow to change the way i think about something as simple as putting aromatic lotion on myself: it’s not an extravagant, unnecessary luxury. it’s not something i have to earn or deserve. it’s not something that will take time away from other more important things. it’s a simple thing i can do that will not only hydrate my skin. it’s a little ole’ bitty thing i can do to thank my body for supporting me with strength and the occasional moments of gracefulness.

p.s. i can’t help but wish, though, that if she wasn’t going to wear those slips and panties, aunt lucy would’ve held onto money instead. would’ve been so much more fun finding my way through boxes of green.


i’m not an outside girl.

i’m not.

i just don’t like going outside. give me a window-laden, temperature-controlled room then leave me alone to treat the great outdoors as my own personal aquarium, and i’m good.

now i don’t know why i don’t like the outdoors, and i know i should be ashamed of myself because, really, what kind of person doesn’t love being outdoors? maybe it’s residual trauma from the time my mother insisted that i, the adorable little teensy jeanne, go outside to play. “no thank you,” i told her as i continued adding to my word collection which, for reasons that escape me to this very day, incited her to hoist me up, march outside, and sit me in my ruffled panties and ruffled socks and patent leather baby janes in the first mud puddle she came to. maybe it’s memories of my life as a miserable human bug magnet which resulted in summer legs covered in never-ceasing-to-itch bug bites. or maybe it’s because i have this, well, let’s just say unique eye thing going on that deprives me of depth perception meaning i don’t see a hole in the ground until i’m down in it.

it could be because we are hugely in love with waterfalls, but whatever the reason, something came over me yesterday, and i heard myself say an enthusiastic “yes” when hubbie asked if i wanted to make an impromptu stop and hike to glen falls.


i do lean towards authority issues, so that could be why i insisted we heed the advice carved into the post of the large bulletin board instead of availing ourselves of the plethora of printed information covering the actual board.

the hike started out easy enough with a rather gentle slope and relatively smooth ground. but soon enough came the trees and the accompanying exposed roots – which are interesting to look at, but can make someone with no depth perception a tad unsteady. on the up side, though, my small feet fit nicely into the little nooks and crannies created by the roots on the ever-increasingly sloped ground. (i also noticed that it was easier to walk when i put my feet down like i meant it instead of letting them tentatively feel around the ground before each step. just as in life, there’s something to be said for confidence.)

the sound of the falls grew louder until eventually we came to what surely is glen falls. while my husband took pictures from the paved and heavily-railed prepared-for-the-public photo spot beside the falls:


i made my way down to the cutest little spot between two trees right at the tipytop edge of the 200 foot drop – a spot where only two size 5.5 feet will fit – to take my snaps:


good news: footing was easier to come by on the trek back.

bad news: the trek back was all uphill . . . and i declare i think somebody stood that mountain up a little straighter while we were taking pictures of the falls.


i flunked out of girl scouts, so i’m always a little reluctant to move slowly or breathe loudly when on the rare outdoor adventure with my former eagle scout husband which meant i moved up the trail at a pretty fast clip. when we eventually came to a little ole’ bitty clearing, you’d’ve thought i’d never seen mountains, trees, and sky as i took umpteen pictures as a clever cover for catching my breath.

i’m certainly no expert on trail etiquette, but when we met the folks going down to the falls, it seemed the only courteous thing to do was to step aside and wait quietly to let them pass by. (okay, i would’ve said “hey” but i didn’t have enough breath. shoot, i barely had enough breath to smile at them.)

we made it back to the parking lot in the same day, i’ll have you know, and today i have only one teensy little double bug bite on my arm to show for my woodsy efforts. (don’t mistake that for a complaint.)

what did i learn from this little impromptu adventure? number one: pack those dryer sheets cause somebody told me to rub myself down with fabric softener and bugs will leave me alone. number two: step like you mean it. and number three: is there a mountain hike game for the wii fit cause honestly, i have to tell you that i much prefer looking at a waterfall from the heavily-cushioned rocking chair on our deck.

fruits just aren’t my color

this is what i dream my life will look like:


this is what it usually looks like by the end of any given day:


(hint: it’s a pig that’s been slaughtered, stuffed, and buried with hot coals.)

and i’m working on changing that.
it’s just that reprogramming a lifetime of
ingrained influences
takes a while.
longer than i expected, actually.
but i’m on it
(most of the time)
cause really,
i don’t look that good in

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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