Category: Uncategorized

My Heart in a Pandemic

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Just wanted to give you all a quick update on my health. If you are following me on social media you have no doubt seen me discuss some problems I have been having with my breathing since I finished up Sundance in the beginning of February.

It felt like I was always gasping for breath and of course as this is a major symptom of COVID19 I became very concerned. I saw a doctor at the beginning of March and he said it was just asthma inflamed by allergies and gave me a prednisone and inhalor prescription. These helped a little bit but the problem persisted. I was then tested for COVID19 and it came back negative. What could this be? I did not know!

Then last week I went into the doctors because I was afraid I was going to stop breathing all together. After examining me they found my blood pressure to be very high and my heartbeat and breathing to be elevated. They strongly encouraged me to go to the emergency room which, despite the expense, I decided to do.

At the emergency room I went through over 8 hours of testing (even though I was in the respiratory unit the place was completely empty which surprised me with COVID19 going on) and the doctor noticed something strange in an ultrasound of my heart, which he told me to have a cardiologist take a look at.

The next day I made an appointment for an echocardiogram, which was administered on Friday. I then talked to the doctor over the phone because of social distancing concerns. He was very encouraging and helpful, which was a great relief. He told me I have systolic heart failure which has to do with the left ventricle of your heart and that I have a problem with my ejection fraction (a measurement of how much blood your left ventricle is pumping out). Mine is at 30% when it should be more like 65%.

It might sound weird, but I was thrilled to have a diagnosis and treatment plan. For months I had been dealing with this mysterious breathing problem and having an unidentified medical condition is the worst. While not a good thing, this condition is treatable and I am working with the doctor to overcome. That’s the best I could hope for in such a situation!

The doctor has me on 4 different medications and I am taking my blood pressure/weight each day. I am also trying to eat as little salt as possible. In under a week of treatment I’ve definitely felt a difference, and I am highly motivated to continue to improve my health. I’ve been too lazy about it for too long!

If you have any favorite low sodium recipes I’d love to try them. The only major downside is I have to be extra vigilant with social distancing until the blood pressure gets under control. If I were to get COVID in this state it would be disastrous. I was already doing well with my isolation but not even going to the grocery store is going to make me crazy!

I guess at least I have plenty of motivation to get those numbers down and under control!

Most importantly I am grateful for my family and friends who I have missed terribly during this difficult time. Nevertheless, I have been thankful for all the emails/phone calls and social media posts that have come in (and prayers). Thank you for all the support. I am also grateful for the excellent medical care I have received from doctors, nurses and more.

I know this is just the beginning of a long journey to a healthy heart, but I feel at peace about it. I’ve been doing these Sunday Devotionals each week since being in quarantine. This has helped me be in a spiritually strong place for this health crisis. I have felt God’s guiding hand and His spirit comfort me each step along the way.

I hope He is helping you through this tough time. God bless!

Isolation, Family and Spirituality

As we all know the world has been put on lockdown and we are all waiting for COVID19 to take its toll and finish its course across this country (to a reasonable degree at least). Just when I think it couldn’t get any worse it does until I want to hide away in a little ball in my room. In many ways I feel like Elsa in Frozen but without a sister knocking on my door trying to play with me. It’s been such a surreal time!

While this time of quarantine has been very difficult there have been some surprises. First, I have been cooking way more. For a single person I think I was pretty well prepared and have a robust pantry (and fortunately had just gotten my toilet paper order from amazon the week before this all started!). While I have made 2 or 3 trips to the grocery I’ve kept it to a minimum and have rarely left my house. This has left me to cook almost all of my meals. I honestly didn’t realize how much I was eating out, so it has been very rewarding.

Secondly, my family has grown closer from all of this. My family is a combination of people who love each other but are all very different. Everything from our ages, distances apart, to our life choices make it challenging to develop a close bond. However, when all this started someone began an email chain and we’ve kept it up and all updated how we are feeling and dealing with this situation. This may sound like a small thing but it’s been big for me. I feel closer to my family than I have in a long time and for that I am truly grateful.

Finally, this time of isolation has actually proven to be a time of spiritual growth. While I have definitely had my lonely times (thanks for helping me deal facebook friends!), I’ve also had more time with the scriptures and my thoughts with God. In order to help my friends who are without church I started doing a Sunday Devotional series over on my youtube channel where I share a talk on a nondenominational topic and then discuss the subject with a friend of mine (Caroline and twice Chris from Durbania). I’m very proud of the series and even if it doesn’t help others (which I hope it does) I have been very edified by it. It reminds me of my days as a Sunday School teacher, which was a very rewarding time in my life.

So far we have talked about kindness, courage and hope. Next week is on forgiveness. I would love your thoughts on topics or anything else that might help the series. I hope you find it as comforting as it has been for me to prepare.

Fortunately, I tested negative for COVID19 so I feel a calm I had been missing for some time. It has been a tough time but I am so grateful for my job with Kobayashi and everybody involved with both of my podcasts. I am extremely blessed beyond measure. I hope that you have found ways to be edified during this difficult time. Please share your stories and what you have done to survive (maybe even thrive) during this time of isolation. God bless you all

ps. If anyone reading has the ability to support my efforts as a freelancer/podcaster I’d sure be grateful. Every little bit helps https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

COVID19 and Taking Away My Third Place

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Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and surviving this crazy situation in the best way you know how. COVID19  or The Coronavirus (not sure when you use which name tbh) has come upon us and not only made people sick but done a thrashing on our entire society. Nobody has been left unharmed. We now just have to wait and see how long it will last and how we will recover/regroup.

Honestly when this all began a few days ago I was a little over-confident in my coping abilities. I thought with what I joke as my hermit lifestyle this would be easy. I work from home, am well stocked with a pantry/freezer and don’t have any kids. I kind of already did an experience like this when I tore  my MCL in 2014 and had to be bedridden for 3 months. It was all going to be easy-peazy.

Well, I am here to tell you I was wrong. While I certainly don’t have it nearly as bad as most the whole experience has been surprisingly emotional. While I am more home-bound than most people it has been eye-opening to realize how much the social interactions I did have meant to me.

Obviously the biggest loss for me is the movie theater. It is not uncommon for me to see 4-5 movies a week, if not more. I frequently love to go down to the arthouse theater and make a whole day of seeing movies. Just last week I saw 3 movies in a day:  Emma with my Mom, an early screening of My Spy (our last screening for a while), and because I knew it would be the last chance A Portrait of a Lady on Fire at the Broadway.

I saw Emma again on Sunday night and as I left the theater I started to cry.  It might sound silly to some but not having the theater is a real loss for me. As I was crying I realized the movie theater is my ‘third place’.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg came up with the idea of the ‘third place’. Every human he surmised has 3 places- home, work and a third place. Usually this place is some type of communal experience with both familiar and new acquaintances. It’s a chance to bond with others and feel a part of a team in a different way than work.

Sometimes I go to the movies alone but even then it’s still a communal experience where I can relax and participate with others in enjoying (or not enjoying) the film. In addition, I have my community of local critics and fellow movie buff friends like Jen who goes to most of the screenings with me. Now that experience has been taken away from me and it has felt like a real loss.

Like I said, obviously many are actually suffering with illness and even death so I don’t have much cause to complain but it is a loss nonetheless. In addition, I have the added stress of speculating what the fallout of all of this will be. I don’t see how it is not completely devastating to the arts and the longer it goes the worse it will be.

Fortunately I have my podcasting which I can do right from home and that is a tremendous blessing. It allows me to connect with my fellow collaborators and cohosts and keep some degree of normalcy for myself and hopefully for the listeners as well. I am beyond grateful for both of my podcasts and I hope they can be help provide some entertainment and relaxation for you during this intense time.

For Hallmarkies Podcast click here.

For Rachel’s Reviews click here.

I was also obviously very sad to lose weekly church services. To try and have some spirituality during this time I started a series on my channel where I give a little talk and chat  about a topic with a friend of mine. Here is the first one on the virtue of kindness.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2020

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. We recently had Valentine’s Day and I continued my tradition of making my personalized valentine with the help from my amazing graphic designer friend Joan at bitsy creations. Her website is amazing and you should totally check it out for all your custom design products and needs.

So here is the valentine for this year:

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I went with this design because one of my most anticipated movies of the year is Wonder Woman 84 and so my avatar wearing her outfit seemed to sum up the moment in time for me. I loved the first Wonder Woman so I hope so much that this sequel lives up to the hype.

Plus I love how bright and cheerful it is. I do have so many wonderful people in my life and I hope they all know how much I love them. I love the background we came up with and the red heart balloon is so cute. I just love it!

I hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day even if, like me, you didn’t have a love to share it with. Maybe sometime that will happen and maybe it won’t. However, we can be happy now for the good we do have and the blessings showered upon us by the Lord. I am most grateful.

Sure love you all!

Rachel

Rachel’s 2019 Year In Review

2019 is an interesting year to think about for me. In some ways I feel like nothing happened and yet at the same time everything happened. It was a lot of hard work, mixed in with the events of life that make things interesting.

Memories of My Grandma

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Today I am writing to you from a hotel room in Folsom, California. I am here to bid goodbye to and remember my dear Grandma Judy Wagner. There are few people on this planet that I love more than my Grandma and as one might expect my emotions at the moment are quite tender and overflowing, but I thought I might take a second to explain why I loved her so much.

It’s interesting because we all have those people in our lives who are complicated to love. That are difficult, demanding, frustrating, even cruel but they are a part of our lives so we learn to love them. This was not the case with my Grandma. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t adore her. Sure we had a few mild tiffs but they were always resolved by mealtime and quickly forgotten. She was just so darn lovable.

There are a lot of reasons I loved my Grandma but one of the biggest is that she got a lot of joy out of life and out of introducing her loved ones to what she loved. It’s always been strange to me that she enjoyed morose books like Ethan Frome because whether it was a new place for muffins or a Broadway show her love of what she loved was contagious. When I was 9 or 10 she took me to see Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco, and we both sat mouth agape when the chandelier came crashing towards the audience. It was a magical moment!

When I was 10 I saw Home Alone with her and it is my earliest memory of laughing uproariously at a film. I will always be sad that I never got to go to Hawaii with her because we both shared a love of the ocean and those beautiful islands. I remember many times her coming to visit us in Maryland and since it was the old days when calling long distance was expensive I enjoyed writing her letters for many years as a child.

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My Grandma loved Christmas, Easter, the Rockettes, yummy platters of simple food, theme parties, New York City, Hawaii, tap dancing, Gone with the Wind, cozy detective novels, and getting her hair and nails done each week.

One of the last real conversations I had with her before her heart troubles made communication more challenging I had sent her a cheesy bracelet for Christmas with the saying ‘God couldn’t be everywhere so he gave us Grandmothers’. After she received it she called to thank me, and we chatted for an hour so. We talked about the family, my various activities, and we both said our I love yous. I remember the conversation because I had to step out of a church activity to take her call. Boy am I glad I did! Life is funny like that. It gives you moments of connection that are so easy to miss! I’m going to try and grab them from now on.

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My Grandma loved pomp and ceremony. She loved attending graduations, weddings and celebrating the accomplishments of her family. I am sure more than one of us grandkids have gone through the processional of graduation more because we knew how much Grandma would love it than it was our true desire to so. I think she was just really proud of us and loved being a part of our lives. We loved her right back for it.

When my Grandma first had her heart problems my sister lived nearby. I remember calling her and saying ‘make sure to let me know if I need to fly home because Grandma and I have an extra special bond’ and Megan saying  ‘you’re like the 10th cousin who has called saying that today’ and it was the truth. Everyone felt like they were the most special of all grandkids and the most loved. That’s such a gift. I hope I can love people in that way.

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One of my happiest memories with my Grandma occurred in December 2000. My cousin Lisa and I developed a scheme where we would promise to go to see the Rockettes if my Grandma would go with us to New York. Of course in reality we loved the Rockettes so it was a win-win situation. The 3 of us spent 4 or 5 days in New York City eating pizza, going to shows (Beauty and the Beast, The Music Man and the Rockettes Spectacular) and enjoying Christmas in New York City. Little did we know that Lisa would pass away the next April. Now they are both gone, and I’m so grateful for that sacred time we had together.

Other memories…I remember her calling to cheer me up when I was depressed at work each Wednesday at lunch. I remember swimming at her very unique pool that had a huge shallow end. I remember hearing of her trips and the yummy things they had and looking through her stamp collection (or her collection of Mickeys, Santas, watches etc). I always loved the way her home smelled like a new car and the way you could run through the hallways with glee (to the point once I ran my hand through her stained glass window and had to go to the hospital). I remember going to a family reunion with her brother’s family and how much that meant to her (we had whole lobsters!).

I remember when she was babysitting us, and we brought home a nest of quail a neighbor had ‘given’ us. I remember watching Christmas Vacation and her laughing so hard she could barely breathe when the aunt offers the pledge of allegiance as grace or when the squirrel comes out of the tree. I remember watching Gone with the Wind with her and looking at her beautiful Scarlet O’hara inspired doll collection.

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When I was 8 or 9 she got me my first doll but only did so after I swore I would take care of it. I was a messy kid (and messy adult), and she didn’t believe I was ready for such a special doll. After that, it was most prized, and I’m proud I still have it to this day, box and all! When my little cousin destroyed one of my dolls she had given me I was furious not because of my heirloom but because it was a betrayal of a promise I had made to my Grandma. A betrayal not of my own doing! How dare she!

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to be like my Grandma. She was simply the best, and I will miss her dearly. I hope she is enjoying catching up with Lisa up in the Spirit World and that she knows how much I love her.

As for me down here on Earth I will cry a lot today and recommit myself to be more like her. Thanks Grandma for all the memories. I love you!