Tag Archives: health

My New Normal

10 Mar

The last thing I want to do is whine, that’s not true, the last thing I want to do is any math whatsoever, I’m pretty okay with whining, I just don’t want to be PERCEIVED AS A WHINER. I just want to try to explain what my life is like now post-stroke. I can sum it up in one sentence, everything is difficult now, or more difficult.  I don’t just mean big things like getting up in the morning at 6:00 and taking the boys to school, I’ve never been a morning person, I don’t just mean typing with one hand, I mean taking a shower and drying my hair and putting on makeup and getting dressed, things that I would do without even giving it one thought before.You might be thinking ” so don’t dry your hair or put on makeup” to that I say, I am a southerrn woman, that is not an option, plus if I look decent I tend to feel a bit better and its not like I wear a lot of makeup but putting on mascara didn’t used to be a tiring thing, but, as the title says this is my new normal. The kind of tired I am is not the kind that a nap really helps, imagine studying for hours and your brain feeling scrambled and you’re impatient and snappy because you’re so damn tired then imagine that you wake up feeling like that even though you’ve gotten upwards of 10 hours of sleep.


I tried comedy for the first time since the stroke and I’m back to using notes and I’ve had to start all over again, I got through five minutes on stage but my delivery and timing was pretty awful but I got lots of laughs which is a huge compliment to my material being good and I know it is,but before I was up to doing feature sets, for 20 minutes with no notes, I have no idea how long until I am up to that level again, it might be years, but I’m not giving up  getting there and even going beyond. the thing that is the hardest for me is embracing that the person before has ceased to exist, she’s gone, and this tired barely made up robot-voiced weirdo is in her place.


All I’m saying is if I seem ‘off’ or over-emotional, give me a break, this is my new normal and I’m sincerely doing the best I can to accept it. and I’m tired and yes whiny. look,  here are pictures of me wearing pretty rented dresses.



Cautionary Tale

13 Feb

on October 26, 2014, my life changed in a way I truly never thought it would, I knew it COULD but like so many other carefree 44-year olds, I thought I was immortal.  I knew that I had health risks that made me more susceptible to having a stroke than most  other people and I also knew that I didn’t take care of myself the way I should have but this is all said in hindsight while I type with one hand because my left hand has not fully regained movement, especially fine motor skills. I had an Ischemic stroke which occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases.It affected the right side of my brain therefore the left side of my body, that’s the way it works, the side of your brain affected is opposite the side of your body affected. I never lost the ability to speak, and was walking within days in the ICU. my arm mobility was good as far as being able to move it up and down but my hand didn’t come back until December or so. The cause of my stroke was largely due to just not taking care of myself, I have to take medicine called Warfarin also known as Coumadin because I have a titanium heart valve and atrial fibrillation. because of this medication, I need to have regular blood tests to monitor the INR level in my blood. Coumadin is a very finicky drug and its affects can be lessened or heightened by the amount of Vitamin K ingested. Blood tests are required to determine if the correct INR level is being reached or if your diet and/or dosage of Coumadin should be adjusted. I stopped monitoring my Coumadin because it was nearly impossible to work full time, be a divorced mom and get blood tests regularly. 

Prothrombin time is measured in seconds. Most of the time, results are given as what is called INR (or international normalized ratio). If you are taking warfarin to prevent blood clots, your doctor will most likely choose to keep your INR between 2.0 and 3.0.

The night of my stroke was the Sunday before my very favorite holiday, Halloween. I felt totally normal, maybe a little spacey, maybe I was drooling a little bit, but I was able to walk around and sort of talk, my 13-year old was worried and called 911. luckily. He recognized the signs of stroke from a commercial.


Suddenly 5 EMTs were in my house to take me to the ER, I was covered in glitter because I had been working on my sweet sweet mermaid costume for Halloween. I would have loved to see video of myself drooling, black t-shirt tied around wet hair. like a turban because I had just gotten out of the shower and I read that a shirt was better for your hair than a towel to dry it. I must have looked and seemed literally crazy because the EMTs asked me if I had anti-psych meds and asked my kids if I was always like this – um, nope only when  having a stroke. I got to the ER and went through all the tests there to confirm that I was having a stroke and they determined what kind  and gave me a drug they told me would break up the clot. so I spent a week in the hospital and then went on to spend 2 weeks in an inpatient rehab where I had extensive therapies, physical, occupational and speech.

I’ve been told I’m an inspiration, I have a joke in my set that starts, “being a divorced 40- something single mom  living in a college town, I have often thought of writing my memoirs titled “Cautionary Tale”, if I’m an inspiration at all be inspired to take care of yourself so you don’t end up having to be inspirational and you can just live your damn life as healthily and as  long as possible, I feel like a fraud because often the past several months all I’ve wanted to do is lie in bed and eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but it wasn’t an option, my mom, sister and 200 other people including my two kids would never have let that go down.Be inspired by selfless people who do for others.

I have made enough mistakes to last a lifetime but I won’t beat myself up over this most recent one, anymore. I have learned from it and I am 22 lbs lighter since leaving rehab where I inexplicably managed to gain 4 lbs, while barely eating and exercising regularly.

My life will definitely be different from now on but different doesn’t automatically = terrible. I’m pretty excited about the changes, even though stroke is the number 1 cause of acquired disability in the country, I am not fully disabled, I am left with the deficits in my left hand and some cognitive issues, though when I told a close male friend that I am now extremely forgetful, cannot multi-task, and don’t have an attention to detail he told me he’s been like that his whole life, so yet another way I am stereo-typically male. I cannot return to work full-time but will be returning to work with children, on a part-time basis,  which is truly what made me the happiest in my professional life. I am taking the state mandated training online so when I am ready to find a job I shouldn’t have any problem. Its hard for me to buckle my belt which has become necessary because of the weight loss, so between my pants not staying up and the brain damage, I could have a new career in politics. I am seriously looking into designing an app for me and the other 3 million people on Coumadin, that tracks and logs vitamin K intake. My life is far from over so be inspired by that not my recovery because that was mostly luck and stubborness.

I haqve been writing and performing stand-up comedy for about a year, I have written material from this experience that I hope is funny,(some of which is in this post) I have no affect in my voice (meaning I sound pretty robotic) and my timing is terrible but my number one goal is  to get back up on stage.

Tomorrow is valentines day and I am valentine-less again this year but I have 3 gorgeous rented dresses hanging in my closet and tomorrow I will choose one and put it on and go to a fancy event called the Heart Ball where I am volunteering for the American Stroke Association and the past several months have shown me that I am absolutely surrounded by love every day of the year.

valentines day

An Open Letter to the “Hot Facebook Mom” Maria Kang

19 Mar

Dear Maria,

First of all, let me say that I dig that you have a message and a vision for your life. I read through your blog and I could relate to some of it (I was unmarried and not financially prepared when I got pregnant the first time too! The second time I was married but not financially prepared and now I’m neither married nor pregnant and not financially prepared for life in general).  I didn’t really find much else that spoke to me, but that’s okay. I respect your story and your journey thus far.


I saw once again that you wanted to know what my, and other moms who don’t make fitness a priority,  excuse is.  Maria, while I appreciate your concern, I find what you’re doing to be just more mom-shaming, wrapped in what you think is an inspirational message.   I’m not even going to touch on the fact that I find it to be fat-shaming as well,  which I do, but for the purpose of this letter, I am just going to address the mom-shaming aspect. However, I will answer your question at the end of this letter.

Let me just say that I am a huge proponent of moms not shaming other moms for their choices.  I find parenting hard enough without having to concern myself with Polly Perfect who is constantly on Facebook proclaiming to the world how perfect her kids are, accompanied by pictures of little Sally and Billy  munching away happily on homemade organically grown apple sauce. I assume this is not the impression you want to leave, but I may be wrong about that. It seems that looks are extremely important to you, so I can imagine your need to control every aspect of what is even thought about who you are is extremely important too. I’m not judging, just pointing out that I find you to be a bit of one of those moms that I avoid at baseball practice.  Or on Facebook. Or in life. Ever.


According to the picture you posted above, as well as what I’ve read about you in your blog, I know that you have three sons, born in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and that you are tired. I can only imagine! I know you don’t have a nanny or a chef and that you are not an athlete or a fitness model and you work over 8 hours a day. One of those arrows up there supposedly points to your stretch marks, but I’ll be damned if I can see them, but that’s not the point.

The above picture, which I  know is small, also says that you “practice consistency, persistence, discipline, intensity, patience, desire, focus, and faith”.   Good on ya girl! I do too, though I find patience to not come naturally to me,  I do try to practice it.  I’ve got the desire part down pat though, know what I’m saying? Yeah you do.

Maria, you are absolutely gorgeous, that is for sure. It is obvious that you have made fitness and “being hot” a priority in your life, and you have since the age of 16 when you started competing in beauty pageants.

I have NO PROBLEM with beauty pageants. My sister was in the past an actual beauty queen, and she still is beautiful, though I’ve had it with her wearing her crown for every family function. I understand  prioritizing what is important to you, that’s what life is all about, right?  I DO have a problem with your holier than thou attitude directed at those of us who do NOT make those things a priority. I KNOW being fit and being healthy are important, though just to be clear, and I’m sure you know this, skinny does not automatically mean healthy and overweight does not automatically mean unhealthy.

Maria, you may or may not be mortified to learn that we are actually not all that different.

This is from your blog,

I’m a wife, mother, business owner and nonprofit founder.

I dream.

I set goals.

I plan.

I take action.

I reflect.

And I repeat.

Well, me too bitch! I mean bitch as in girlfriend, no disrespect meant, because while you do irk me a little, we are similar. That’s right, Maria, you have a lot in common with a mom who has two boys, and is overweight, and exercises very lazily 3-4 times a week, and is right this moment drinking a Coca damn Cola, because I also dream! I set goals! I plan! I take action! I reflect! And I repeat! I couldn’t help but notice that you have a vision board next to your treadmill. GIRL, mine is in my bedroom.

I know there will always be people who insist that their way is the only and right way. The debates between those who have chosen to bottle feed their children rather than breast feed, those who choose cloth diapers over disposable, those who co-sleep rather than not, those choices are all valid and good choices.  Figuring out what works for ones own family and filtering through everything that is out there about what you SHOULD be doing is one of the toughest things about being a parent in my opinion.

I understand that you have chosen to prioritize fitness in your life, and that is a good and valid choice. Maria, I will now answer your question. My excuse I guess,  is that I just haven’t made fitness a priority in my life, but it’s not an EXCUSE, it’s a choice. It’s a choice you may not agree with, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that because you have made it a priority in your life that I am any less the person or mom that you are.  The words that are on your picture as far as things you “practice” are not exclusive to you and your commitment to fitness.  This year I have chosen to conquer fear to do something I have always wanted to do, stand-up comedy. I write daily, even if it’s just something like this, I am someone who constantly tries to learn from my past and is striving to make myself the person I want to be, not only for myself, but for my children. I want them to see a mom who is not afraid and who kicks ass. I think those are things you want your children to see in you as well, we just see the end product as something different. And it’s okay! We’re both right!

So Maria,  let’s agree that maybe you knew you were stirring up some controversy when you posted your “what’s your excuse” picture, because I think you did. You’ve been blogging for a long time, since 2005, but nobody gave  you much thought before that picture took off and went viral. I don’t think you’re a MEAN person, and I know you think you are impacting the world in a positive way. If I could wish anything for you it is that you would come from a place of support rather than shame, because we are not all that different and maybe we could learn something from each other, but it is hard to listen to someone when you feel they are attacking you.

Also, your boys are adorable and I wish you nothing but luck in your endeavors.

Love and donuts (I’m sorry, now I’m just being a brat)


Never Fear…It Is STILL My Year

21 Jan

I am such a good planner that I went ahead and got the health issues and hospital stay out-of-the-way first thing in 2014.  Sometimes I amaze myself…with my own stupidity.

The congenital heart defect that led to heart surgery about 4 years ago that makes me tick (literally and figuratively I suppose) requires that I take blood thinners. Forever. Forever and ever. The amount of blood thinner in my blood must be monitored weekly by in my case a clinic that must be the busiest clinic in the south because every trip there from beginning to end, travel time included, is about 3 hours.   If my levels are relatively stable, the clinic visits go down to once a month. I never managed to be very stable and it felt like I was spending a lot of time at the clinic. I have learned through a series of bad decisions on my part that spending a lot of time at the clinic beats spending 2 nights and 3 days in the hospital, or any time at all in the hospital.

I don’t know if I am so terrified of committing to anything that I felt the need to break up with my medicine or if I really do think I’m invincible, but after hearing lots of stories from friends and loved ones about people who knew people who had a stroke after being off of their blood thinners for two days and stories of people who died, and 1 very curt doctor who had me in tears, and my sister who really could make lecturing her life’s work, I realized that no matter how busy I am, or the fact that I moved, or that it was the holidays, I can’t mess around with my health like that. While there is no doubt that I am fabulous, I am not immortal, and my kids deserve to have me around  to torture them with my long drawn out speeches about injustice in the world. They need me around to make more vision boards and badly sew pillowcases for them. I’m their mom, and there is only one of me. I want to be around for them and I want to be here to see them bring home their first girlfriend, or boyfriend, because whoever they are is who they are and of course I love and accept them, for whoever they are (at this point they would be screaming at me to give it a rest.)

In the spirit of near-death collisions, I have put up another profile on OKCupid.  The latest iteration of my profile has been up for about 36 hours, and I have received some interesting messages,  including one from a man who says he has a Master’s Degree, yet his profile is riddled with spelling errors. I mean, where did he type his profile that NO spell checks noticed that one of his favorite books, presumably Water for Elephants, is not Water for Ella Phants, unless Water for Ella Phants is a book about a woman named Ella Phants who lives in a desert and is on a quest for someone to bring her water, and in that case, color me red.


I have received two messages within 12 hours from the same man, who I guess thinks surely there was a computer glitch and I didn’t receive his first message because why would I NOT immediately write someone who took so much effort to not fill out anything on his profile and who sent a message telling me how much better my hair looks straight rather than curly. Thank you for your unwanted and absolutely unnecessary opinion, man whom I will never message.

My absolute favorite so far is the man who simply sent me a message saying “u don’t look fat”.  I presume I brought this on myself because in my profile I have the audacity to state that while I am not a tiny little person, I am “comfortable in my skin”. This translated to him that I was fishing for compliments I guess, and in his mind, the worst thing a woman can think of herself is that she is “fat”.  What I really want to put on my profile is “don’t worry, I will never ask you if my butt looks big in anything. I have SEEN my butt, it is fantastic, and looks big in everything.”

Ah online dating. Honestly, at least I get a lot of really hilarious and hilariously bad stories out of it.  Keeping an open mind. HEY, maybe I’ll meet someone at the clinic.

peace love joy

I’m all Enlightened and Stuff

31 Aug



I have practiced yoga off and on for many years, and though I know the correct term is indeed practiced, it has perhaps never been more apropos in this instance because though I have been DOING yoga for years, I still have not mastered the art of yoga.  I love doing it and I love the way it makes me feel but I feel like I’m not any good at it. I mess up my breathing by inhaling when I should be exhaling, I tend to want to hold my breath, which is totally not what I should be doing, and perhaps worst of all, I am not good at being IN the moment, something that is stressed during yoga.  I tend to let my mind wander rather than concentrating on breathing out through my chakras. When the instructor is telling us to concentrate on our breathing and leaving everything outside the yoga studio, this is what is going on in my head –

Was that my stomach? I am hungry. What is there to eat at home? Do I have any gas in my car? Do I have money to put gas in my car? What time does the Alabama game start? Who are we even playing? I am the worst fan but I really do like college football. I should go back to college. I have so much laundry to do. I cannot wait to move.

And soft breaths

I really need more yoga clothes. Wonder if they have any at Goodwill. Oh Goodwill is bad. I should try the consignment stores. Where did that place move that was right down the road? And there’s my stomach again. Oh I’ve got those baby carrots and yogurt dill dip. Who the hell am I? Seriously, this is what I want to eat?  This yoga shit is really enlightening me to what goes into my body. Baby carrots with yogurt dip and I still have Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Done and done. Lunch and dinner figured out right there. Boom.

And really concentrate on leaving everything outside the studio. Think of this moment.

In this moment I need food that is currently outside the studio. Why don’t I eat before I come, this happens every time. Great. I’m the stereotypical overweight lady who is constantly hungry. Don’t judge me thinlings, I’m thinking about baby carrots.  I need to buy a yoga mat. It’s dumb that I come here and borrow theirs. They’re like what, $6 at Target. I need to do that.

And child’s pose 

Oh I LOVE child’s pose. Yeah, stretch it out. I am so damn flexible now. I am feeling my spine stretch through my fingertips.  Speaking of spines, I have GOT to look up the final moves for Mortal Kombat on YouTube. I don’t remember which character pulls the spine out of their opponents body, but that is a badass move. The boys would love that. Is that too violent? I grew up playing video games and I’m not a serial killer, yet anyway, though if I don’t eat soon, it’s a possibility.

And on to proud warrior

Damn right I’m a proud warrior. I’ve got this shit IN THE BAG. I’m gonna be sore tomorrow. This is INTRO to yoga? So glad I didn’t decide to try power yoga. I think that would kill me. I am so hungry, what time is it? Oh I have apples at home too.

And tree pose. Really make your feet like roots 

My foot is a root. Look at me. I should wear my glasses in here so I can see myself better because I look freaking awesome right now. I AM a mother fucking tree. I should relax into this and breathe like we’re supposed to and BE in the moment. Oh so hungry. This place is so pretty, I love that mural. Wonder if that means something or if it’s just decorative. I should ask.

And now we lie down on our backs and mentally scan our bodies to relax fully

THIS is what I’m talking about. This pose, this flat on my back hands to the side palms up totally doing nothing but breathing pose I have DOWN at this point in my life.

And breathe



Nailed it.


Strength and Letting Go

7 May

The human spirit is a tenacious little beast, isn’t it? It enabled Amanda Berry, who was kidnapped ten years ago,  to never forget that she had a home and did not belong where she was.  It gave Aron Ralston the strength to cut off his own arm to free himself when he was stuck between two boulders (fun fact – I googled “guy stuck in rocks” to find his name because I could not remember it).

I think this strength of the human spirit comes in many forms besides amazing acts of self-preservation.  I am reminded of people like firefighters who run towards danger to help others, and all those at the Boston Marathon who, after hearing the blasts and seeing the injured people, continued to run to the hospital to give blood.

We, as people, have an amazing propensity to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to help ourselves and others.

I have said before that my mother is strong, and she is. I watched her take care of my dad after his leg was amputated because of complications from diabetes. My dad pretty much gave up after the amputation, and decided to take himself off of dialysis, and chose to die. At the time I thought his choice was a surprising one because he was SO stubborn. I wanted him to fight to live.  It is difficult to explain why my dad chose to let go, other than saying that to him, his life was over, so that is what he chose to do, and it was his right to do that.

To say my dad was a difficult man to deal with sometimes would be like saying Gary Bussey is sometimes a little erratic. My dad was hilarious and brilliant and very much a pain in the ass for a large part of the latter part of his life. I love the old codger and I miss him every day, but he was not an easy man to care for and I saw my mom do it daily from going to the store 20 times a day because dad was in the mood for a Vidalia onion,then he wanted some Klondike bars, then a grapefruit would hit the spot, to bathing him, to assisting him in the bathroom.

My mom cared for him while working full-time and cleaning up the wreckage of failed business deals that my dad left.  Amazingly, after he died, she took off and joined the Peace Corps and headed to Jamaica. It was something she had always wanted to do and she did it.

My sister and brother-in-law show an incredible amount of strength and spirit acting as caregivers for my brother in law’s father, Dennis,  as he literally wastes away before their eyes from ALS. I told my sister that it is like she is living inside the feel bad movie of the year, and she added that there is no happy ending for this awful movie.   He will be dead within the next few months. That is not me being harsh, that is me being realistic. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , or ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” is a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This is from the ALS Association –

As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look “thinner” as muscle tissue atrophies.

Dennis is fighting death with every ounce of strength he has to live because he is afraid of what lies beyond this realm.  I used to think that my dad was weak because he chose to end his life rather than learn to adapt.

Call it perspective or wisdom with age but I see things differently now then I did when my dad died 12 years ago.  I see strength in letting go. I see a beauty in moving from one stage to the next, even when the next is unknown and scary. I hope that Dennis will find that strength and as flaky as it might sound, I hope my dad can help him move to the other side, whatever that means.  I hope he can do it for himself, and I hope he can do it for my sister and brother-in-law.

There is strength in letting go, and strength in holding on. Figuring out what needs to be done at what time is the tricky part it seems.


*The picture was on a site that said “no picture credit available”

Then Again, Maybe Not

6 Feb

I don’t tend to make new year’s resolutions, officially anyway. I tell myself there are certain things I want to do better, or do more of, or not do, but I don’t tend to make an official declaration in the new year the way others seem to, at least it seems that other people do that whenever I am in the lunch room with my work friends as they discuss their 2013 diets.

This year I have pondered making some changes. I always have ‘get healthier’ on my list of things I want to do. My eating habits are less “fraternity boy” and more “grown up” these days, but I could do better. This line of thinking led me to wonder if doing a “cleanse” would be a good thing to try, before I launched into a whole new way of eating. I know that any changes I make will have to be life changes, and that a diet is not what I need.

A friend mentioned that she wanted to try something called a “master cleanse” which I later learned is a juice fast that has been around since 1940. This is from the website themastercleanse.org

  • First, squeeze Fresh Lemon Juice.
  • Then add Rich Maple Syrup, and Cayenne Pepper into Pure Water.
  • Drink a minimum of six to 12 glasses throughout the day whenever one is hungry
  • Take a laxative before bed

It sounds easy enough, I can do that for a day. WAIT A SECOND, TEN DAYS? It is suggested I drink this concoction for TEN DAYS? One would be beyond hungry, one would be chewing ones computer keyboard. Screw my doctor, this is something my coworkers, children, ex-husband, and the human race would strongly suggest I NOT do.

SO skip the cleanse. Perhaps I’ll just get into this “paleo diet” I’ve heard about. I have never thought of myself as either a hunter or a gatherer but I can eat what cavemen ate. I won’t have to grow it or kill it myself, so I can do this. Lean meats, fruits, seafood, nuts, and seeds. I think I got this one. Wait, where is cheese ? Are you telling me there was no CHEESE then? UGH. Never mind.

OOOH what’s this? The Law of Attraction sounds interesting,   “by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results”.  Awesome. Currently I am focusing my energy on becoming healthier while I eat a block of cheese and drink some lemonade.  Hey, lemons are in the master cleanse AND part of the paleo diet so I’m half way there.

J. A. Allen

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