Thursday, April 29, 2010

I went to a yoga class for the first time ever last night. My wife, who used to go to yoga, came along as well. I think that this was in part to see if she could find a good class to get into something that she used to enjoy , but in part to make sure that I did nothing overly idiotically enthusiastically.

I had never been to yoga and I must say that I was a bit nervous. I was worried about giggling and worried about being totally inept. The two are more interconnected than one would think. If I cannot do something I stress, when I stress my one fallback involuntary reaction is to giggle. When I start to giggle I stress more which makes me giggle. I was afraid of being stuck on the floor, giggling hysterically, ruining the class for everybody and then skulking away in humiliation. Fortunately, nothing like that happened.

Paula is a very smart and gentle (at least to us beginners) instructor. The first deed was to lay on the mat and breath. Close your eyes and breath. Take in as much air as you can. Try and slow down the breathing rate. Try to take a bit more time to breathe out than you do in. Really concentrate on the breathing and you body. It was easy and hard to do that.

I cannot remember all the gentle movements that we did. I learned how stiff and inflexible my body is at this point. For example - at one point we were flat on our backs on the floor. Our arms were to be flat on the floor just straight out from our shoulders and then we were to bend at 90 degrees at the elbow in a sort of "hands up - you are under arrest position". I could not do that and sill be flat on the ground - I needed a bit support in terms of foam blocks.

A few moves required a bit of pressure on the sternum and I could hear my wife whispering for me to be careful. Which was a good reminder - it is amazing how easily we forget.

I am really rambling - I must say that the night is a bit of a fog even though it took place just 24 hours ago. But I like yoga , I shall return and write more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We blog writers (or is it blog posters) are a self centered, petty, jealous lot that succumb to flights of fancy. At least I am. I don't really know how many people read this thing and I always say that I am writing this for my own record. And that is true for the most part, but at the same time I do have a bit of a fantasy that there is a secret army of thousands reading this and that Oprah is going to stumble upon it and I will be flown to Chicago where I will introduce "From the Heart" to millions and millions and it will be translated into all the Chinese dialects and I will become famous and rich and go on speaking tours.

I mention this because it makes me reluctant to introduce to my readers, bloggers who are better than me - I mean what if they get on Oprah and not me? But there is a blog I am compelled to pass on:

Mr. Pearson is a Liberal MP from London Ontario. (the MP for London North Centre). His blog "The Parallel Parliament" is a well written, intelligent, perspective on politics and government. Sure , he is a Liberal, and is at times partisan, but mildly and reasonably so.

Regular readers may recall that I often refer to the local MP where I live as the Woman Who Claims to be our Member of Parliament. In my own mind I regard that as a funny and sarcastic indictment of her. Maybe no one else may think that, but I will explain more on Oprah. Our MP is wildly popular but I find her troubling. She is no supporter of gay rights, equates abortion with beheadings by terrorists, and constantly plays the Big City / Big Money conspiracy card. She creates the illusion that forces of dark and evil require constant vigilance. I find it extremely distasteful and almost frightening. Some of the most evil regimes in history have played this card early in their ascents to power. I would be guilty of her sins if I continued to join the dots, but it is something that does pass through my mind.

That is why I find Mr. Pearson's writing so refreshing. He seems as opposite to the Woman Who Claims to be our Member of Parliament as can be. By the way ..... Mr. Pearson, should you ever read this, and should you make it to Oprah instead of me, any chance that you can get me her autograph?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

News Flash - Today, the 24th of April 2010 at about 8:30 in the evening we just heard the cry of the loon!!! Our little portion of the Madawaska River (the Ontario one that runs from Algonquin Park) is the section between the Anprior and Stewartville Dams. It is the first time since I started kayaking that the birds beat me to the river. I will have to wander down across the street to the Landing to tell them what's been happening. Of course the loon is very smart and very wise and likely knows already.

I was going to use the Call of the Loon to go for my first paddle but a deal with my UOHI Mentor is a deal. I will be happy if the loons talk to my wife as she paddles.
Things done by noon today:

  1. Wake Up
  2. Make coffee and breakfast
  3. Do abbreviated beagle walk
  4. Go to Weight Watchers ( I lost)
  5. Walk around town for Earth Day (better late than never) - speak to Ottawa River Keeper, speak to Rotary Club about Haiti Relief Project, buy two jars (the last two) of Buckwheat Honey
  6. So grocery shopping. Deliberately park car as far away as I can, which turns out to be dumb as I buy more than I planned.
  7. Romantically, for my wife, buy yellow tulips and tastefully (I hope) put them in vase for her to see when she gets home for late lunch. This is not so good for planet on Earth Day but no worse than the raw spinach that I bought as well. (Going to try calamari and spinach salad tonight)
  8. Go home and make chicken, butternut squash, carrot, mushroom, chickpea soup. Have to fight off cats and beagle while I debone chicken. Cats, beagle, and especially chicken not happy.
And now I am pooped!!! This fatigue is getting to me but one day at a time. Will nap while soup simmers, hope that low low really is low. Will report later if woken by smoke detector

Friday, April 23, 2010

February 23rd, 2010, two months ago today, was a snowy, blustery day in Ottawa. I know because I looked it up:

I can’t remember the weather myself after about nine in the morning, as that was the day of my quintuple bypass surgery. So two months later it is a good time to reflect.

Prior to that day I had only limited bad experiences: I had never spent the night in a hospital and had never had my body incised, although I did once sit next to the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament. I had made it as far as the door to the OR two weeks prior, so that part I knew. But what was beyond the door I knew not. I did not fear death. I figured that death had the options of being either Eternal Nothing or The Big Audit. I was prepared for the Eternal Nothing as I had already (sorry for repeating myself) already sat next to the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament. And no last minute mumbo jumbo was going to make The Big Audit better or worse – you are measured by your actions, not words. I did fear for my wife coping if I died, but I did not fear death for myself. Stroke and disability were a different matter entirely, but in reality, the odds against death, stroke, and disability were pretty good.

I feared waking up and not knowing where I was, I feared the breathing tube, and I feared pain. So what happened? Well, the instant I became aware, I knew that I was in a recovery bed. I knew that it had to be the ICU but in my memory I was in a massive room and there were no other patients there. But I knew I was in good hands and had no fear. I had played the breathing tube thing over and over in my head. I thought that it would be miserable: I thought that I would not be able to speak because of it, and I thought that it would be painful. I barely remember the breathing tube, although I clearly remember Nurse Kevin talking about removing it. There was a low level of pain and discomfort in my chest but it never got unmanageable (i.e. manageable as by Tylenol)

I have already written about the five nights at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. I am not going to repeat it here, other than to say, yet again, that I found this health facility to be amazing and I would recommend to anyone on the planet.

I had planned to read and read and read during my recovery. And I planned to watch Ken Burns' documentaries. I love to read and I really need to watch more TV. (Aside from Anda: "?????") Yet during the first month I did not want to read a lot. I think I read two books which is much lower than my usual consumption. I think that my brain wanted to rest from absorbing the thoughts of others. I did a lot of thinking, just like Plato. I did a lot of napping, just like Pluto. Thinking and Napping are two real luxuries.

I don’t think that the napping part requires an explanation, but I really do want to expand about the Thinking. Thinking, with a capital T, is a real luxury. Ordinarily, my brain is as cluttered as any living space that I am allowed to be in. I think about short term needs and commitments to outside forces that are insignificant and transitory and mundane. As artificial in power and relevance as they are, they are still like something foul on the soles of your shoes: they require attention. But those things are on hold and being handled by others. So, I have been able to Think over the last 60 days. Think about my good fortune, Think about the Grace of God in all things having molecular structure, Think about the wisdom of my friends that I often meet in the evenings, Think about silence, Think about trying to hear the message, Think about duty, Think about obligation, Think about my weakness, Think about the amazing amount of resources that have been bestowed on me, Think about the people that I have come to know better, Think about how to love, Think about how to be loved. I often will just sit and Think.

I know that the great multitaskers of the world would mock this. They would say that they exercise, watch an educational DVD, text the office, and do their taxes at the same time. Only a fool or simpleton would squander valuable time just sitting and thinking. That is sloth beyond imagination. Well maybe. But the next time that I see an elderly person that is sitting in a chair and perhaps staring vacantly, I think that I will know why that curl of a smile is on their face.

60 days!! I am walking 4K a day. Let’s just say that my running is on hold. I spoke with my UOHI Mentor today and we agreed to back off cycling for two weeks and kayaking for four. I am allowed to get my heart rate up to 30 bps above rest. My blood fats and sugars are where they are supposed to be. The sternum is almost whole. But I still tire easily and I still have several things to check off on the list before I go back to work.

The only thing that I still cannot adequately convey is my profound sense of gratitude. It is in my heart and in my soul – I just can’t make it appear in words. I guess I will have to just take two out of three.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

So - if I went to Jesus and told him I wanted to lose weight, what would he say? Okay, Jesus knows all, and is omnipotent and would have an excellent answer, but he has yet to speak to me directly, and I doubt that he will in this case, so I had better do what I always do and guess.

As a poor Jew growing up in Palestine, he would have thought that losing weight was weird. His audience would have thought the same. Can you imagine the parable?

There was once a man who was cursed by too much food. No matter where he looked there was food. What’s more, demons made him eat the food. He had been a little peckish at times in his life, but he had never known real hunger. Instead he ate when he was happy and he ate when he was sad. At times the man had nothing to do. He did not have to collect sticks for his fire or harvest grain or work at backbreaking labour. This doing nothing was called being bored and the demons made the man eat when he was bored. The man kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and had to get bigger and bigger robes. He got so big that he could no longer fit into his house and had to sleep outside. The demons did not like being cold, so they left him, but the man kept eating. The demons then realized that they had nothing to do with the man eating! But they did not want the man to know that. So the demons went out and got fancy robes to dress themselves in. They put water in bottles, added a bit of spice and told the man that if he paid them a piece of gold a week, he could partake in drinking this water and it would make him thin. And the demons became rich and the man stayed fat.

But 2000 years ago that parable would have made no sense so Jesus would not have said it. Maybe he would have said something like this:

There once was a very wise king who knew the land very well. He knew how many subjects he had and he knew the size of his vineyards and how many fields of sheep there were on the hillsides. He knew how many fields of wildflowers there were and he knew how much land a mother bear needed to raise her cubs. He knew that he had a great trust that was imposed on him as a result of the gift of his wisdom. The Great Trust was the Great Balance. He knew that the needs of his subjects and the needs of the wildflowers and the needs of the mother bear were always to be in balance and harmony with each other.

So the king figured out the needs of each subject and put in enough vineyards and fields of sheep so that each child, woman, and man would always have plenty. And yet there would be space for the wildflowers to bloom and the mother bear to nurture. But some of his subjects took more than their need. This caused the wildflowers to wilt and the bears to flee the land. With no wildflowers and no bears the balance and harmony collapsed and there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So what if that had been the parable? The homilist today would no doubt say :“Have a good Earth Day and do not exceed your Weight Watchers' Daily Points”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another weekend and a few more lessons learned. It started as a unique weekend, as it was the first weekend in the longest time that I was going be a Bachelor Caregiver to the four cats and the beagle. My wife was off to a conference in Ajax, and I was to be Master of the House.

We had a good weekend. There was the monthly contemplative service over at the Galilee Centre; unique in many ways but particularly interesting in that it involves periods of silence. One of the readings was from John’s Gospel where the risen Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Three times! So, was Jesus slow on the uptake, or was he just a little conceited and liked to have the disciples grovel a bit? Or is there more to it than that? Is perhaps Jesus saying that following his lead of loving your enemy and not seeking revenge and not loving commercial stuff is a hard road to follow and you had better think before you really say that you are on the road? But is that right? I have no idea but it is good to think about it.

So - on Saturday I did my first running since October 24th of 2009. I did 7 cycles of one minute of running and a two minute walk. I felt good about that and even posted my deed on Facebook, enjoying the little positive affirmations that my friends sent me. I even stretched after the run! I had the okay to start jogging from a few folks – my cardiac surgeon and my fitness person from my regular doctor's clinic. On Monday (today) I got my first call from my Mentor from the UOHI. It is her function to help me with my exercise and rehab. She was aghast that I was running and told me that it is way too early. I must say that I felt a little crushed – is it okay to run or not? In my mind I had the okay, and was doing it very cautiously and did not expect the rebuke.

But one thing that I have learned about being upset about comments, is that I usually feel the person has a point and I just don’t like admitting it. Here is what happened. I felt a bit arrogant by Sunday afternoon. I had done the run, walked the poor beagle over 6 km on the weekend and was already planning to hop on the bike. Just before my wife got home late Sunday afternoon I developed a pain in my side while adding to the dog’s waking regime. It felt like a runner’s stitch or pulled muscle and was on my left side, about half way down the chest. A year ago I would have either done nothing or popped a couple of Robaxacet . But now I am a bit smarter so it was off to the local hospital to the ER. I was chewing on Aspirins and getting an ECG within 10 minutes of checking in. As the ECG was normal, the STEMI Protocol, prominantly displayed on a poster next to my ER gurney, was not activated. I was grateful. The blood tests showed nothing in the marker enzymes, but they require a second test 6 hours after the first, which would have been 2:00 a.m. ; in the local hospital the lab is closed long before then. So I lay on the ER gurney until 2:30 a.m. and then was checked into a hospital room / bed. Laying on the little gurney was a great time to contemplate and think about life, and readings, and meanings. I thought of all the ER has seen and yet again, how blessed I was. To make a long story short – I was out of the hospital by 1100 a.m. with a clean bill of health. It may have just been a muscle strain. Sooooo, maybe my UOHI Mentor had a point. I will take a little easy.

Again my poor wife did all the heavy lifting. She was the chauffer and then had to go home to retrieve my drugs. (no drug list, no check into hospital). She gets a break away weekend and then is back to minding and worrying about me. I am one lucky guy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

So it is time for a plan – sort off. A week today (Friday , April 23, 2010 ) will be the 2 month anniversary of my quintuple bypass surgery. All the indications are that all is going well for me and it is now time to slowly (and I do emphasize slowly for my benefit and for the benefit of concerned readers) that I get on track doing some serious recovery work. I think it was okay to be a spectator for the first months. In fact it was more than okay, it was really the only thing to do; allow nature to take her course but here are three things that I am going to do (and I am putting them in writing for the Blog World, at least my little corner, to see) .

Return to Running

I was running when this journey started and it is to running that I shall return. (sounds dramatic!) . My pal Jessica over at the West Carlton Family Health Team ( she is one of the fitness consultants) is keen to have me put a date in the book that she and I can run 5K together. That is still in the “Yikes!!” category for me , but I am going to start from square one , doing a one minute run and a two minute walk for an initial total of 21 minutes, three times a week. I have been walking by 4K a day so I figure that I am ready to take it up a notch. The docs and the therapists and mentors tell you to do this while listening to your body and I will do just that. In theory I could be doing ten and ones sometime in July but I will do things one day at a time.

I even went to the Running Room to get a snazzy new running shirt and a stretching rope thing. I figure that I may be slow, and I may be clumsy but I will look natty.

Going to Yoga

I am signed up for yoga for Wednesday ! It will be the first time ever in the existence that I know about I have tired yoga. I am frightened of two things: 1) Making a fool of myself by being as flexible as a Gumby left at Absolute Zero overnight , and 2) Making a fool of myself by hysterical giggling. When I am nervous, I giggle and the more that I want to stop the more I giggle. But I have been getting stiffer and less flexible since spending that time and I am told that yoga is a possible fix.

Paula the Instructor is willing to lend me a mat for the first sessions. I will back off ordering Lululemon Gear until I see how this works.

Back to Weight Watchers

What can I say? I need to lose pounds and pounds. I know WW works. So I am just , like the Swish People Who Resurrect the Words of the Dead Out of Context to Neutralize the Actions of Their Most Expensive Commodity. I am going to Just Do It.

I weigh in tomorrow morning.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In a couple of weeks it will be two months since my surgery. My chest scar and left arm scar are still there, of course, and have taken to a long phase of an enriched red colour. The cardiac surgeon seemed content with the progress, but I am a little surprised at the continued redness. Of course, how would I know? I have never had this happen before. Every once in a while the incisions will remind me that they are there – a sort of very mild “don’t forget about me” sort of pain, which seems to come at the time and place of some other force’s choosing.

The same goes for the pain in the sternum - every once in a while it will produce a very minor ache, but I have not had to take Tylenol for weeks. In the early days I thought I would become a Tylenolhead, but fortunately that did not happen. Maybe it is just thinking about it, but today seems like a day when the thing wants to act up a bit.

One of the things that I was warned about as a possible side effect of surgery was depression. I initially dismissed this worry, as I have never in my understanding of the word, suffered from depression. So I was surprised to have a visitor. I have been suffering from a low level background feeling of angst or worry about health, job, money, state of the planet, relationships, cats, dog, exercise, stupid letters written by now dead bishops from a church that I do not even belong to, online Globe and Mail comments posts, too much rain, not enough rain, housework, yard work, riding movers, the smartness of Ontario’s payments to Samsung, taxes, and other stuff. (Strangely I am not depressed about the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament – she always brings a smile to my face) . I am either suffering from a moderate background depression (sort of Charcoal Puppy versus Black Dog) or it is the first signs of becoming a cranky old man. It is a bit like being in Kinburn and looking at the night sky: it is dark, but not Algonquin Park dark, as the lights of Ottawa and even Arnprior are making their presence known. That is the Charcoal Puppy.

I am lucky in that I hang out with some spiritual minded and smart people that I can meet up with most nights of the week. Going there makes a big difference. I am grateful and thankful for all that I have been given, but it is still interesting how this rumbling malaise IS there. Again, I am thankful for the lesson, as it gives me the chance to journey in the steps of others.

Another thing that still surprises me is the fatigue. Today I got up and made coffee and breakfast for my wife and myself, took the beagle out for a very short walk, then went for a gentle 2 K walk myself, came home, made some work related (keeping oar in water) phone calls, went via car with the beagle to get a chai, came home, made a sandwich for lunch and then I had to take a nap. The point is that the morning was not that strenuous and yet it tired me out.

There are two things that I want to do. The first is getting on my bicycle. The magic date, after some research, has proven to be two months after my operation which makes it April 23rd. (I would sneak out earlier but my wife who is caregiver / cardiac supervisor would not approve. She is away this weekend, but if I went for bike ride the cats would squeal) . There is a bit of an advantage for delaying the big ride. I am still putting aside money for each day that I do not ride to the African Caregiver Team, which includes the very green first responders, educators, medicine providers and others (check out the Bicycles 4 Humanity Ottawa link on the right)

The next thing on my list is to get the kayak in the water, but it looks like that is not going to happen until May Two Four Weekend. At least the water will be above death temperature. The kayak thing is going to be tough to delay though – I think that I may go out as soon as I here the first loon calling. I will just stroke gently.

So I still maintain that I am one very lucky person. Get rid of the fatigue and keep the Charcoal Puppy on her leash and I will be better than ever. And I just thought of this – puppies don’t like bikes and don’t like kayaks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I have not blogged for a while but my fan has not complained so I did not worry too much about it. Part of the reason for the lack of blogging is that I have been busy living – not to imply that blogging is for the non living. (which would be a neat trick of course)

I saw my cardiac surgeon back last Wednesday and news was good. He said that my prognosis is excellent. I was given the okay to drive and to carry stuff around that is over 4 kilograms. The latter is good news for one of our more robust cats who likes to be carried around by me.

Driving is so intrinsic to our society that you do realize the power that it has until the right is taken away from you. It is small wonder that the removal of this privilege from the elderly is so traumatic. Anyway, I am back on the road, polluting the air and doing my part to bring us closer to Climate Change Armageddon. At least we might get 1000 years of decent Arctic Ice out of it, depending on which Satan gets tossed into the pit without bottom.

I have the okay to continue my walking and I am negotiating with my wife when I can start to cycle and to kayak. (the CS said to give it a few weeks so the negotiation is on the definition of the word few) . At this point we have agreed that I am not going to cycle this week.

I can now sneeze and cough without flinching unless it is a really big sneeze. Giggling is now fine but the big guffaw is not without a bit of a self chest hug.

Easter Weekend has just past but maybe more on that later. I find Easter strangely disconcerting at times.