A Woman’s Heart Attack

The human heart
The human heart

Mamacita says: I had a heart attack on New Year’s Eve. Actually, it began the Sunday before, but I didn’t know what it was.

I have since learned that a woman’s heart attack is usually very different from a man’s heart attack. We see men having heart attacks in movies and on TV, and it’s always dramatic – stabbing pains, a clutching at the chest, and a heavy collapse. But women’s heart attacks are not like that, at least, not usually.

The thing is, what a woman’s heart attack is like is not easy to pin down. I can only tell you first-hand about my own, but while I was in the hospital, I learned a lot about it that I did not know before. My doctor told me to tell all my female friends, and it wouldn’t hurt my male friends to know this, too, that a woman’s heart attack is a sneaky bitch.

That Sunday night, I felt a nagging, subtle but uncomfortable sensation beneath my left breast. I thought to myself, well, it’s the holidays; I’m crazy busy; I’m stressed; I’m exhausted – all these explanations worked because they were all true. Besides, as I said, it wasn’t really a pain; it was more of a sensation.

However, it didn’t go away.

The next day, it was still there, not any worse, but not any better, and it had spread across my chest. Still not actually a pain – still more of a subtle sensation.

By Tuesday night, it was still there. Still no worse. Still no better. Still not a pain. Still just a sensation.

I thought it might be heartburn, but I don’t really get heartburn. I consulted Dr. Google (never a good idea, by the way) and decided I might have pneumonia. This didn’t overly concern me – they’ve got medicine for that these days.

Later that night – New Year’s Eve – my husband took me to the walk-in clinic inside the nearest hospital. The young woman at the desk asked me what the trouble was, and I told her I had a persistent sensation across my chest.

She raised her eyebrows and said,”We take chest pains very seriously here. I’m sending you to the ER.”

Chest pains. It was the first time that so much as crossed my mind. Chest pains. CHEST PAINS? Wasn’t that a heart attack? Was I having a heart attack? But only old people had heart attacks! I couldn’t be having a heart attack. I just couldn’t be. Where was the drama? Where were the stabbing pains?

At the ER, they took me in hand and looked and listened and poked a few needles in my arms in preparation for things to come and loaded me into an ambulance and took me to the BIG hospital thirty miles away.

There, the waiting doctor (so handsome) cut a little hole in my wrist and threaded a long super-thin wire up my right arm, across my chest, and into my heart. I was getting a stent. Being me, I was awake throughout the entire process.

(It was the pulling back out of that wire that was the weirdest thing.)

Then they wheeled me upstairs to a private room (yay!) and I begin four days of being treated for a massive heart attack.


I felt exhausted beyond measure, but otherwise fine. I’m almost always tired; it comes with being a woman.

I was covered with tubes and needles, and was being given medications enough to sink a much bigger ship than me.

The nurses, both male and female, all looked to be about fourteen years old, but everybody does, these days. All were super, super nice.

After those few days, I was sent home and told not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk, and not to drive for three days. I was given a bottle of nitroglycerin and told to carry it with me at all times.

Today, almost two weeks later, I feel fine. Still bone-tired, but I honestly don’t even remember not being bone-tired. No pain. Lots of pills to take twice a day. But I am fine now.

The motto of this post is this: Ladies, do not take any kind of chest pain for granted as something minor that will go away on its own. Go to the ER immediately. Your heart attack will typically be unimpressive, undramatic, subtle, sneaky, and reminiscent of a strong salsa aftermath. Men, if your female loved one has these symptoms, take her to the ER. Her heart attack is not like your heart attack.

A woman’s heart attack is unimpressive. It isn’t loud. It isn’t dramatic. You will probably think, as I thought, that it was heartburn. Whatever else you do or don’t do, don’t consult Dr. Google; he’s a lying quack.

I hope none of you ever have to deal with this, but it’s good to know what to expect if it doesn’t happen.

Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t try to be stoic and wait it out. Take care of yourselves, my internet friends who mean so much to me.

Take care of yourselves.

Oh, and I hope you had a more festive New Year’s Eve than I did.

Poetry Friday: January 10, 2020

It’s Poetry Friday!

Mamacita says: I always ask my students for a show of hands: Who hates poetry? Hands go up all over the room, because our students are not taught about poetry; they are subjected to it, and selections from the lowest bidders at that.

I haven’t done my duty by Poetry Friday for a while, but I intend to rectify that, starting today. Or tonight, as the case may be.

Poetry is music, my dears. You hate poetry? You have no favorite songs, then? Take away the melodies and what’s left? That’s right. A poem. Now let me ask again: Who hates poetry? Put your hands down, you bunch of liars.

Robert Frost (the laureate who recited at President Kennedy’s inaugaration) was once asked how he thought the world might end. He thought long and hard about this, and came up with two ways, both absolutely viable.

Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

In many cultures, what we refer to as “Hell” isn’t hot; it’s cold. This makes perfect sense to me.

Think about it.

This one hasn’t been set to music, but it’s still considered a lyric.

The ancient Greeks revered poetry so much that three of the nine Muses are in charge of most of the poetry, but the other Muses dip their hand into a lyric or two whenever it suits them. The Greeks were smart; they knew that poetry makes the world go round, and that even the sciences were part of the poetry of the universe. More on the Muses later.

Eve and Morn

My favorite modern Christmas story. . . .

Mamacita says: Christmas is such a magical time.  We anticipate it all the rest of the year, and then suddenly it’s here, and it’s so special, so wonderful, and it’s over so quickly. . . .

Let’s not forget how Katie, age 8, in a book I quote probably way too much but how can one help it when the book is so full of wonderfulness, What Child Is This, by Caroline Cooney, put into innocent words that the night before Christmas isn’t called a ‘night,’ it’s called ‘eve,’ and Christmas morning isn’t called ‘morning,’ it’s ‘morn.’ Eve and morn: two special words to highlight two special times.

How special are they? They are special already, in their own right, but how you make them special for yourself and for your children is entirely up to you. I hope you give them memories they will cherish all their lives, so much so that they will pass the glory along to their own children.

Children flourish with roots, but they soar with wings.

May your Eve be full of anticipation and warmth, and may your Morn be all you hoped it would be.

Christmas Quotations

Christmas Memories

Mamacita says:  I love these days leading up to Christmas more than any other time of the year. I love the planning. I love the baking. I love the making lists. I love the shopping, which I actually do all year long. I love the Amazon super-secret-discount-deals. I love wrapping the boxes and decorating them with ribbons and glittery things.  I love the Christmas cd’s in my stereo.  I love getting out and using the Christmas plates and bowls and glasses. I love making my house look like a Christmas card. I love welcoming people into my home and sharing everything I have with them. I love watching Christmas movies, which I’m doing today, in fact; welcome to my Dickens’ A Christmas Carol marathon – updates Twittered regularly.  I know the book by heart, thanks to my father, and I’m quite critical of any movie version that takes too many liberties.  Any liberties, actually.  I mean, why diddle with perfection?  (Stupid scriptwriting doodlers. . . .)

#25 is my favorite.  I think of it regularly.  It reminds me of my father, before the diabetes made him. . . different.  He used to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol aloud to us when we were really little.  I loved it.  I loved the big words, and the three ghosts, and the lessons learned.  Dad would explain what the big words meant so next time we would understand the story even better.  We did, too.  “What is a doornail, Daddy, and how could it be dead?”  I loved hearing Dad read out loud.  He used to do it a lot when we were little.

Dad loved Christmas more than any little kid ever could.  He could shake a package and guess what was in it, and most of the time he was right.  He used to lie on the floor and just gaze at the tree.  His own childhood was pretty bleak; maybe that was why he threw himself into Christmas for his children so thoroughly.  The reading aloud might have been my favorite part.

1. There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child. — Erma Bombeck

2. This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone. — Taylor Caldwell

3. Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree. — Charlotte Carpenter.

4. Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’. — Bing Crosby

5. Christmas, my child, is love in action. — Dale Evans

7. My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? — Bob Hope

8. The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing other’s loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.
— W. C. Jones

9. Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect. — Oren Arnold

10. The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect! — Charles N. Barnard

11. Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. — Hamilton Wright Mabie

12. Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves. — Eric Sevareid

13. Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. — Mary Ellen Chase

14. There has been only one Christmas – the rest are anniversaries. — W.J. Cameron

15. Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. — Laura Ingalls Wilder

16. Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself. — Francis C. Farley

17. Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen. — Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

18. In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’ — Dave Barry

19. When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? — G.K. Chesterton

20. The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world. — Author Unknown

21. The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. — Jay Leno

24. Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. — Augusta E. Rundel

25. There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! — Charles Dickens

I say God bless it, too.  God bless all of you, too.  Every one.

Merry Hogwarts Christmas To You

Christmas at Hogwarts
Christmas at Hogwarts

 Mamacita says:  James and Lily Potter weren’t the only parents who knew about magic, you know. I love to imagine Christmas at the Burrow, also; Molly and Arthur Weasley, poor as they were, must have given their large family a wonderland of inexpensive dreams-come-true. Hogwarts gave its students a magical Christmas experience, too, as all good teachers and schools do used to do. Authority figures owe it to children to do so.

Parents owe their children some magic.  It shouldn’t be an option.  Children need magic, and parents can give it to them with not much effort at all.

Parents are magic, you know. ALL parents can do it if they try. We have, in our fingertips and in our heads and in all those old boxes, the power to transform ordinary things into things of magic and wonder. We have the power to transform an ordinary day into a Holiday. There is more than tinsel and glass and molded Hallmark treasures in those boxes. There are memories, stored in those boxes. There is each child’s First Christmas, in those boxes. There is the Christmas we were all too sick to go to Grandma’s, so we had to stay home and entertain each other. There is an ornament from the Christmas of the Emergency Room visit. There are ornaments made of styrofoam and glue and glitter. There is the ornament someone bought in the Chicago airport, just because it caught his eye and he thought someone else might like it. There is the ornament a little girl used to lie under the tree and watch, JUST IN CASE the elves would peek out the window of it and wave at her. There is the ornament with sad eyes that a little boy worried about, year after year, and which must be hung in exactly the same spot on the tree – and low, because it’s really, really heavy. I have a Christmas angel made out of a torn purple pillow case and a toilet paper tube, and a piece of that same pillow case with “Oh come holy spit” written on it in black magic marker. It’s worth more to me than anything in Tiffany’s. Erma Bombeck had one, too; when I read about hers I felt kinship! There are ornaments from friends, and ornaments found at yard sales and flea markets. Every ornament on our tree has a history. I know where and when everything on that tree was purchased, or made, or given. A real Christmas fanatic can tell you the circumstances under which almost any ornament on that tree was obtained.

I can look at my tree and see more than just a beautiful twinkling tree. I look at my Christmas tree and I can see all the years of my family’s life, represented on the branches.

I can remember, as a child, sitting on the floor and just staring at our tree. It was almost beyond my comprehension that our house could contain such glowing wonder. It was like magic. My mother created magic, in our house. How did she do it? I still don’t know. I only know that I have tried to create that same magic in my house, for my children, and I hope I have succeeded.

Why do I work so hard, harder even than Clark Griswold, to try and create a magical Christmas? The answer is easy. “Because.”

Power. Parents have power to change a mundane day into a day of wonder. Our children’s memories depend on our willingness to use that power.

Sometimes we are so physically exhausted that it’s difficult to put out the effort. Don’t ever let yourself get caught in that trap. Once you start, it’s easy to continue.

Your children are worth the time. And so are you. Get up from that chair, get those boxes down from wherever they’re stored, and get busy. Make magic for your children.

Otherwise, they won’t know how to make magic for their own children

Context and Life

Illustrates curse and blessing
“It’s a blessing and a curse.”

Mamacita says: I love context. I have a tendency to “take things apart” when it comes to poems, songs, and all kinds of writing. (Everything else, too, but mostly word things.) This is, as Monk would say, a blessing and a curse. Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of some Christmas songs? Applied schema to them? Because two of my favorites, “We Three Kings,” and “Good King Wenceslaus,” tell us a story, and the story isn’t always bright and holiday-ish. “We Three Kings,” especially, is dark and even scary, full of foreboding and even prophecy. King Wenceslaus is indeed good, taking food and drink and wood to the peasant he caught stealing sticks and branches from his land, but his squire’s fear and cold and extreme unease are easily felt if you listen closely. Sometimes I wish I could just enjoy, but that’s not how my brain is built. I LISTEN, and I have to analyze, and it’s indeed a blessing and a curse.