American Heart Heroes-Orlando Families Conference

Last weekend L & I signed up to volunteer for the American Heart Heroes – Orlando Families conference at the Nick Hotel. We had a group of 7-10 year olds from 9 am to 3 pm, all either with Congenital Heart conditions or siblings of kiddos with heart problems. It. Was. Awesome. We played, watched movies, did crafts, and even got to see a live taping of the game show “Double Dare Live.” We were the Spongebob group, so our chant was for someone to yell “SPONGEBOB” and the group would yell back “SQUAREPANTS!” Out of respect for the kiddos and their families, I didn’t take picture of them but you can go to the American Heart Heroes Facebook for more info.

L & I, ready to rumble. Bring it kids.

Spongebob! Squarepants!

Drinking the green slime

One of the kiddos’ drawings on their craft bags

Slime ’em!

8 Ways I’ve Changed

When people email me, or talk to me after they’ve heard my story, I get a lot of the same questions.

“Do you have a family history?”
“Do the doctors know what caused it?”
“What did the heart attacks feel like?”
But the most common question I get (in emails especially) is “What is your life like now?”

This is a hard one to answer. My life has done a complete 180 after the heart attack. A lot of these changes aren’t obvious to people who didn’t know me before and a lot aren’t even that glaringly different to those I’m closest to. But for lack of a better description, my insides are differently configured. Not in a bad way, but just…different. I thought I would try to explain these changes as best I could in a list. If I digress, it’s only because it’s hard to explain. So here we go…
1. Every day is a gift. Yeah, yeah…blah blah, put it on a magnet, I know. But it’s true. We all know I hate mornings (can I say it enough on this blog?!) but I am thankful when I open my eyes. I went through a few months where I was scared to go to bed because I worried I wouldn’t wake up. The morning gratitude has yet to wear off, I doubt it ever will. Each day is another day to make life great. 
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Easier said than done. In general, I don’t get worked up about deadlines, bills, money issues, to-do lists or errands. These are all just bumps in the road and don’t affect my viewpoint on the bigger picture-enjoying life. They are just necessary tasks. I used to be so upset if I didn’t cross everything off my lists or if things weren’t just right. Now I have a messy closet, dusting that needs to be done and errands that will get done…eventually.
3. Anxiety. On the flip side, I’ve been struggling with a lot of anxiety since the heart attack. Right after everything happened, I had a year where I was depressed. If I wasn’t feeling numb, I was crying over anything. After the depression subsided, the anxiety sunk in. I don’t get anxious over anything in particular, it’s more like random anxiety attacks that are overwhelming and cause me to bail on running, hide in bed for the night or stare at a TV screen for hours. It’s not linked to anything in particular, like stress at work or school, it just comes on randomly and stays a few days. Then, if something stressful happens during that time it is heightened. For example, the week before the Good Housekeeping shoot I was a complete and total mess. So on the one hand I’m much more relaxed every day, but when the anxiety flares I’m a mess. I know, I don’t get it either. #confusing
4. Senior Citizen status. This one intrigues me. I’ve always been super extroverted, out of the house every night, here there and everywhere. I love socializing, dinners, drinks with friends and just being OUT. After the heart attacks, I’m a total homebody. I love Netflix, snuggling in bed, my Keurig and a fuzzy blanket. Part of me wonders if that’s age or anxiety, but I actually don’t mind it. It’s nice to slow down a little (says my bank account).
5. Self-esteem issues. I’ve always struggled with my self-esteem and self-concept. I have had serious body concept issues, from the time I was in middle school. I know I’m probably the weight of the average American woman but I can’t help but think that when people hear me talk or see my pictures they think, ‘well no kidding she had a heart attack, she’s a fatty.’ Screwed up, I know. My amazing friends try to help me with this one but it’s tough to control when you’ve dealt with it your whole life. I often don’t pursue jobs, blogging opportunities, even invitations from friends because I truly think I’m not skinny/pretty/funny/charming enough to go for it. 
6. Sliiiiight hypochondriac. After going through something major medically, it’s hard to think your body isn’t failing you. Lump in my neck? Red blotchy spots? Knee pain? Pimples? All of these become major in my head and I ended up googling symptoms and self-diagnosing myself with some rare disease from Mongolia. Not. Cute.
7. Love deeper, stronger.  I think I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I had a hard time committing to anyone or trusting people before the heart attack. I kept friends at a distance, sometimes even ignoring them altogether. I didn’t go out on a lot of dates and if I did I found a way to reject them quickly. Even my relationships with family members were distant and strained. After the heart attacks I guess my heart was literally and figuratively unclogged. Only 9 months after the heart attacks I started a relationship and we’re living together, even talking about marriage. I’m not afraid of it, and I’m all in.

8. Pursue the happiness. If I want to go on a trip, I book it. If I want to stay in bed all day, I do it. If I want to paint my nails blue, they’re blue. If it feels good, I will do it.

I hope this sums up my experience. It’s hard to explain, but I’m a different me. All in all a happier, forward-thinking me.

Run Nona 5k

My motivation to run this past month has been less than enthusiastic. I would rather watch “Honey Boo Boo” on repeat than get up a second before I have to each morning. As I’ve said on this blog before, I’ve tried for years to become a morning person. Alarms, coffee, cold water, planning outfits the night before, not eating after 7 pm…? They’ve all failed me. So when I’m not really into running, the mornings are even worse. Instead of fighting them, I’ve caved in to their power. I haven’t seen my running group in a month or so and I can’t say I’ve missed it. That sounds horrible. What I meant to say is I don’t give a darn. Dang, I did it again.

So what do you do when you’re down on running? Sign up for a 5k of course! A while ago one of my running buddies, Anna, suggested we do the Run Nona 5k Run at Night. She organized a team for Doctors Without Borders, called Florida Health Defenders. The mission of the team was to raise awareness and funds for Florida residents who aren’t covered by Medicaid due to coverage gaps and also to raise enrollment for the Health Care Marketplace. So I signed up to be a part of the team for the sake of healthcare. Also there was food and beer. 
The weather was fantastic. It was 58ish degrees and windy as heck…I was in heaven. If I could run a half in this weather I would PR, I just know it. However, everyone else was cold. The race began at 6:00 pm so as the sun set, the air got colder. We decided to power walk the race, enjoy the scenery and get updates on the Gator game online. It was glorious. Perfect weather, great friends, a Gator win, and delicious food and beer after the race. I’m not going to say it restored my desire to run again but it was definitely a good night. 
And yes, that is Grant Hill eating nachos at the start line. Best. Celebrity. Sighting. Ever. (Besides that time I saw Margaret Cho in San Francisco. That was amaze balls)

High Hopes

Listen, I’d love to write you a blog about how successful my #34before34 has gone. I’d write about how my mission of self-discovery has led me to a higher level of self actualization than I could’ve possibly dreamed of. My life would become stress free, I would dance with unicorns on a rainbow in the land of cookies and puppies. However, that ain’t it.
Reality is I’ve only accomplished 15 items off my list (#23 is a stretch-I didn’t write an article but I feel like being in Good Housekeeping counts for something, darn it!). The school teacher in me is screaming “15/34 is only a 44%! You’re getting an F in life!” Fact is, at this point the most I can get is 30/34, because the items in red are a big, fat FAIL. I didn’t finish 2 months of NutriSystem (at least not all at once), my Half Marathon was cancelled (sure, it wasn’t MY fault), I an an OTF drop out (the classes and my schedule were not friends) and I didn’t blog every week (alright, alright, I’ll own up to this one).
However, some things have been crossed off. I did manage to take the furry child to the beach last weekend. He walked to the marina, chilled on a balcony with a view of the ocean and enjoyed some delicious mango rum…I wish I was kidding.
My friend Kevin thinks manatee mailboxes are fun


My co-pilot, beach bound!

My friend Amy and I also made it to Chicago! We had an amazing weekend full of food, fun and mayhem. I ate a grilled cheese that had mac n’ cheese on it….IT WAS AMAZEBALLS. I swear I could hear my arteries clog as I ate it but soooo worth it. My hair looked amazing, I rocked warm clothes and I took in the sights. Did I mention I ate a lot?

The bean!

Go Cubs. Or at least look at how cute this new scarf is!

So I didn’t accomplish what I expected to by this point. What’s a girl to do? Carry on. Frankly my friend Kathleen warned me this list would be near to impossible and I should have listened. She is always right. Did this list give me some anxiety? Yes. Is my job insane this year? Yes. Do I need sleep? Yes. so moving forward I have exactly one month left. I doubt I will get a 30/34 but perhaps this list is about more than accomplishing things. Maybe this is all a good lesson in patience and allowing myself to not fulfill every list that comes along. It has been a long time since I haven’t accomplished something I’ve set out to do, and this will be a real blow to my ego. Maybe that’s what I need. Come the end of November I’ll let you know. Until then, I’m off to relax and enjoy life. I hope you do the same.

It’s here! It’s here! Thank you Good Housekeeping!

It’s here! It’s here! I’m so honored to be a part of “The New Face of Heart Disease” in the November issue of Good Housekeeping magazine! It was amazingly surreal to read my own story in a magazine! Good Housekeeping has been a part of my family since my first memories. My grandmothers, aunts and my mom all read Good Housekeeping and I remember flipping though it when I was younger, imagining myself baking the recipes in its pages or decorating my bedroom with brightly colored linens and unique throw pillows. So to say I am included in its archives is a huge privilege. 
Thank you to Amanda Robb who wrote the article, Janie Matthews who did the fact checking, Andrew Thomas Lee the amazing photographer who took my pictures (of which I get to see in 30 days!), Jillian Caro who did the hair and makeup, and Marina Harnik who was the Photo Editor. Did I miss anyone from GH? I sure hope not because they were all very kind and encouraging.
A huge thank you to my friend Kathleen who put up with me through the process, graciously opened her home up for the photo shoot and kept me sane. 
P.S. Check out the other 2 women featured! One was an army lawyer and the other a reporter in D.C.! 
Here I am!
This is the cover. Just me and Eva, y’know. 😉

The Beat

Welcome to my new posts, called The Beat. I’m always on the hunt for red clothing (dresses, especially), running gear, and things with hearts! I’d like to feature some of them every once in a while. See any others? Send ’em my way! 

2014 Greater Orlando Heart Walk

This year’s Greater Orlando Heart Walk was another success! First off, thank you to everyone who helped me reach my fundraising goal. I raised $500 total!

Money, money, MONEY!

This year I did something a little different. I volunteered with the Passion Committee! Instead of getting there right before the Walk began, I was able to drag my tired behind out of bed at 3:30 AM and report to duty at the Advocacy tent! Along with a few other Passion Committee ladies we got people to sign postcards for elected officials regarding the lack of CPR as a graduation requirement here in Florida. I got to speak to other survivors, family members, even high school students who were in support of the change. We obviously were the coolest tent EVER because we had temporary tattoos. Hotness.

You’re The Cure…you’re obviously b@da$$ too
It’s amazing my eyes were this open at 5 AM
Finally, the sun rose in the sky and people flooded the UCF campus including my loves, Lina & Jo. This was Lina’s first Heart Walk! Jo is no stranger on this blog either. As I’ve said before, he walked in memory of his mother who died from a heart attack in 2009 and then helped me survive mine. He even rocked his heart guardian tee I got him.
My lovers for the morning

And we’re off! 3 miles in the hot Florida sun. I’m used to the mileage, but we always run before the sun comes up so this was brutal. But we made it through. Another successful Walk!

Let’s do this!

Almost done! Must. Have. Breakfast.

Until next year!

A Second Chance Is Why!

Another insane week. Good Housekeeping, the first week of school with kiddos, my to-do list growing exponentially by the moment and trying to keep my sanity. I did, however, manage to build a new shelf for the guest bedroom. Is the bedroom still in complete shambles with boxes everywhere? Sure. But is the old shelf that I lovingly named the Leaning Shelf of Piza demolished and gone? HECK YES. Score.

The new campaign for the American Heart Assoc. What’s your why?

Good Housekeeping shoot!

About a week ago I did an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine! How, do you ask, did they find little ol’ me? Ah, the inter webs. I guess this very blog came up in a search! I’m so honored!

Yesterday was the photo shoot for the article! I got to work with the amazing Andrew Thomas Lee. We did 3 outfit changes and took pictures everywhere from the bamboo to the dining room to the living room! Major shout out to my friend Kathleen who opened her home for the fun. Jillian Caro did my hair and makeup and everything looked fab! Clothing styling by me…just how I like it. 😉

Here are some pics from the big day. I’m told this is scheduled for the November issue of GH but I’m sure there will be a post/tweet/facebook post/scream as soon as it comes out!