Loss and Gain

By: Angie Sloan

They say that when a person loses their sight, their hearing becomes more attuned. They are suddenly able to hear things on a different level. I assume it is nature’s way of compensating for the loss of vision. It serves to help guide and protect the person from things they can no longer see.

What happens when a person loses (almost loses) their life? What happens after a near-death-experience?

I can answer that. And I am grateful that I can answer that.

After you have faced death, you are more attuned to life. The life around you. The singing of the birds. The feel of the sun on your face. The smell of the rain. You notice things that have become background noise. You feel the emotion of others around you. Rather than just noticing the father carrying his daughter on his shoulders, you feel the joy and exhilaration his daughter feels. You feel the love and adoration they have for each other. You notice the young couple in the restaurant, on their first date. You see the nervousness and anticipation in their eyes. You feel their hope for connection. You see the elderly woman shopping for groceries and feel her confusion when she cannot find what she wants.

You take notice of it all.

On March 1, 2017, I woke up feeling extremely short of breath. I simply could not get enough air in my lungs to walk to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the kids. Luckily, my oldest son was home and helped get them off to school. I knew something was terribly wrong and once the kids were on their way to school, I called 911. An ambulance arrived within 5 minutes. My oxygen saturation was dropping and they took me to their nearest hospital. Seven people converged on me as I entered the emergency room. Even on oxygen in the ambulance, my oxygen saturation had dropped to 59. I was dying. I knew it.

I tried to stay calm. I knew that getting upset would worsen my situation. I lay there, on the gurney and thought about my life. I tried to remember what the kids were dressed in as they left that morning. I tried to remember their last birthday and what we had done for Christmas. I wanted to make a mental inventory of all the good memories, simple memories, in case that was my last day alive. My oldest son arrived as I was mentally preparing for what would come next.

Seeing him gave me strength. My mom instinct kicked in. I did not want him to witness his mother dying, so I made up my mind that I would get through this. They still could not get my oxygen saturation up. I had a massive blood clot in both sides of my pulmonary artery. The physician looked at me and before he could ask, I said, “Do it. Intubate me. Do whatever you can. I have to be around for my kids.”

And I prayed. I begged God to give them the insight and knowledge to save me. I was not ready to leave this earth. And just as they were about to intubate me, my oxygen saturation came up. My vital signs began to stabilize. I was still in critical condition, but things were improving.

Later than afternoon, they transferred me to ICU, where I stayed for the next 7 days. I was lucky that the physicians were able to shrink the clots in my lungs and my legs with high doses of Heparin and I eventually transferred onto the regular floor of the hospital. After 10 days total, I was released to come home just in time for Jack’s 9th birthday.

As we lit the candles on his cake, I made a wish. I wished that I would always take inventory of the life around me and that I would appreciate every moment. And that wish has been granted.

You don’t have to have a near-death experience to take inventory of your life. The good in your life. The things that matter. The things that don’t matter. I emerged a changed person. I felt like Mr. Scrooge on Christmas day. Being in the ICU for seven days will change your perspective. During my stay in the hospital, not one time did I ever think about the “things” I owned…the clothes in my closet, the car in my garage. I only thought about the people in my life. And the miracle of life itself.

The experience was a wake-up call. I was traveling 3-4 days a week for work. I was constantly on the road and rarely took breaks. I was under a tremendous amount of stress, which all led to the blood clot. I was consumed by what I “had to do” to provide for my family. And then I realized…I don’t need all of the “stuff” I had. I was existing, not living. My life was work, work, work. And for what? Things we didn’t need.

In June, I downsized to a smaller house. I got rid of the gas-guzzling car, and got a cheaper one. I had a HUGE yard sale and sold things I didn’t want or need. I ridded myself of the possessions that almost cost me my life. I traded all of that in for a simpler, more comfortable life. A life where balance is the priority. A life where I am mindful and present enough to savor the little things…those little everyday things. I don’t travel any more for work. I am home for my kids.

Most importantly, I am HERE for my kids. Present. Appreciative. Ever grateful.

Resolve…

By: Angie Sloan

Every Woman Blog - New Year New You

This may sound like a snarky post, but that’s not my intent. The new year is here! Two weeks into 2017 and there’s not a single parking space at the gym and my Pinterest board has been filled with tons of pins on how to keep those “New Year’s resolutions.” And this year, I have decided to not buy into the hype. I don’t begrudge those who do, but it’s not for me. It’s the word “resolution” that bothers me. In its bare form it is just “re” meaning (to do again) and “solution” meaning (an answer to a problem). And you know what? That is precisely the problem.

Each December, as the new year approaches, we realize that we need to “fix” ourselves, again. We make promises to lose weight, get in shape, eat healthier, keep a tidier house, read more books, watch less TV, etc. But what if we are not broken? What if we aren’t the ones with the problem that needs to be resolved? Hear me out. I am not saying, by any stretch, that like Mary Poppins, I am practically perfect in every way. I am far from it. But why do we as women put ourselves through the misogynist torture of conforming to the expectation of New Year’s Resolutions?

I have a friend who received a new fitness tracker for Christmas to help her “stay on track” with her resolutions. She literally lives, eats, breathes and sleeps by this new tracker. She uses it to measure everything and I worry that’s she is beginning to use it to measure her self-worth. I think many of us measure ourselves by numbers on a scale, on a screen, on our paychecks, on our mailboxes. The new year is a perfect time to change that behavior!

(Give me a minute as I descend from my soapbox.) Here is my point, dear readers. Let’s all realize that we are good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, tidy enough and smart enough. Simply stated, we are enough. If we choose to improve ourselves, that’s a great thing. But we don’t need a new year to do it.

If we are going to make a resolution, let’s resolve to love ourselves. And let’s actually keep that one!

Happy New Year!

An Aerial View of Childhood

By: Angie Sloan

As a parent, you spend most of your time “in the weeds,” tending to the daily grind of raising happy, responsible, well-adjusted little people. Your ultimate goal is that they turn out to be great adults. You hope they will find themselves in a life they love, surrounded by people who love them as much as you. You do all you can to guide them to this path. You help steer them in the right direction.

Looking back at my childhood, there were a lot of people in my corner. My cheering section was full and I always received the encouragement I needed to succeed. But there were pivotal moments and conversations that I recall that made a tremendous difference in the paths I chose.

There was the English teacher who encouraged me to write. She loved my work and always made time to read my imaginative short stories. I look back and realize that she was a major influence in my love of writing. She told me, “Write from your heart. Keep it genuine.” Even now, when I write something, I have to feel it, or I scrap it before I ever click ‘save’.

At different periods in my life, I worked at a radio station. I remember talking with the program director about various career paths. His words to me, “Never confuse a hobby with a career.” I was almost offended at the time, but hindsight provided clarity. He was saying, love what you do, but don’t lose your love of what you do because you “have to do it” for your livelihood. Great advice!

Jack and Ila coloring at Flight Deck

Jack and Ila coloring at Flight Deck

There were so many other conversations that stick out in my mind. But this post is not about me. It is about having the privilege to witness one of these conversations, as a parent.

Jack, my 8-year-old, is consumed with WWII. Over the course of a year, he has read about 40 books on the subject. He retains everything he reads and loves nothing more than to talk about it. I know more about the war than I ever have, as Jack educates me on a daily basis. He seems to have an understanding of it that reaches far beyond his years. This weekend we went to Flight Deck Restaurant for lunch. Being new to the area, it was his first time going there. He was in awe of all of the memorabilia. He pointed out different planes…that’s a spitfire…that’s a B-17…and so on.

After our meal (which was delicious) the owner made his rounds through the restaurant. He stopped by our table to check on us. I introduced him to Jack and told him how much he loved the place and about his deep interest in WWII. The owner was impressed. It’s not every day you meet an 8-year-old with such knowledge about WWII. As busy as he was, he stood there and talked to my sweet boy for a long time. Jack was thrilled to talk with him about the different planes and battles of years past.

Before he left our table, he extended his hand to Jack. I will never forget what he said to my son. I don’t think Jack will forget either. With absolute sincerity, he shook Jack’s hand and said, “I am so impressed with your knowledge. Tell me your full name so I can remember you, because you will do great things and I want to say I met you when you were a kid.”

Jack smiled and said, “I am Jack Sloan.”

He said, “I am Ted. I hope you come back and visit us again. Remember, Jack Sloan. You will do great things in this world.”

Jack was quiet as he walked away. I could see what an impact those words had on him. I know there will be times in Jack’s life when things are hard. There will be times when he loses his way. My hope is when his path is dimly lit, he will reflect on those words and remember that he is destined for bigger things.  That greatness is a choice. I hope he strives to be like all those WWII soldiers he looks up to.

And I hope that Ted knows that he is now a part of that destiny. Such a simple gesture with such a big impact. Jack will never forget that conversation. And neither will I.

The Birthday

By: Angie Sloan

August 26, 2016. Today, my sweet daughter, Ila, turned three years old. Today, another family lost their daughter to leukemia. She was four. I never met her, but she lived here in birthdaythe Midlands and I’ve followed her story for several months on Facebook. Her name was Kaylin.

Tonight, as we sat around the dinner table, laughing and celebrating little Ila’s big day, I reflected about how Kaylin celebrated her last birthday. I wonder what kind of cake she had? What was her favorite gift? Was she sick then? Did her parents have any idea, as she blew out her candles, that this would be her last birthday? Although I smiled and participated in the festivities with my daughter, my heart was overcome with grief for their Kaylin. I felt such guilt for celebrating. Yes, it is my daughter’s special day, but they lost their little girl. Then I felt equally as guilty for not wholly participating in Ila’s celebration. Did this experience not teach me anything? I should be celebrating each and every moment with the people I love.

I have often wondered how parents and grandparents survive the death of a child. I have mentally tried to put myself in their place. I cannot fathom what they must feel. Just thinking about it makes me physically ill. Do they ever recover? How do they go on with their lives? How do they wake up and get out of the bed in the morning? I imagine everything feels empty. I would be overcome with grief and consumed by sadness. How do they do it? How do they go on living?

Then, I think of the siblings and the friends left behind. The older siblings who were once protective of their little brothers or sisters. How do they cope? And the little ones…do they even understand what’s happening? How do you explain this to their friends? How do you explain death to a child?

My daughter seems to sense that something is “off” with me tonight. She’s curled up in my lap, almost as if to comfort me. She knows. As I hold her in my arms, I am so grateful to have this moment with her. To hold her. To feel her warm breath on my chest. To smell her sweet hair. To look down at her long eyelashes, as my tears fall. And I am thankful to have a healthy little girl. Grateful to have three healthy children. Happy to see my house in disarray, because it’s living proof that they are still here. They are here. They are happy. They are loved. Tonight, as we celebrate her birthday, I am so unbelievably grateful.

Because earlier tonight, someone lost their daughter.

In loving memory of Kaylin. May her family find peace as they grieve for this sweet angel. Please remember that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Share this story. Do what you can to make a difference.

Fear is a Four Letter Word

By: Angie Sloan

I grew up in the Seventies. Which means…we played outside with our friends, there were no video games. We knew who lived next door to us and often borrowed sugar or eggs, always returning the favor with a sweet treat our moms had baked. We used rotary phones and we actually knew our friend’s phone numbers (a lost art these days). We ran with scissors and we ate dirt, because back then, there were no warning labels and “breaking news” conferences to advise otherwise. There was one television in the house, which meant you watched whatever your parents watched.

And when The Shining came out on HBO (around 1982), Mom wanted to see it. She had heard that it was really frightening and she loved a good scary movie. It was the summer and I was allowed to stay up to 11:00 one night a week. Hearing all the buzz about the movie, I chose that evening as my late night.

Mom popped Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove and we turned out all of the lights in the house. I can still smell the aroma of that popcorn. My dad didn’t take part in the hoopla, and went to bed because he had an early morning the next day. The movie was a bit slow to start, but there was this overwhelming sense of dread from the beginning. I watched it all. Sometimes through the safety of my hands as they covered my eyes. It terrified me.

I will never forget that feeling of fear. Looking back, I think it was the first time I truly felt terrified in my young life. I was nine years old. My mother probably didn’t have the best Fearjudgement when it came to filtering what we watched. But it was done and there was no turning back. Again, times were different then. Parenting was different.

The reason I reference that movie and that time in my life is because we all have felt fear at some point in our lives. And for me, that marked the first time I really felt fearful. It’s a common emotion. It’s healthy and normal to be fearful of certain things or situations. For example, being fearful or nervous when moving out on your own is warranted and healthy. It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time. You are suddenly responsible for everything without a safety net. There are bills and responsibilities. It’s a big scary world out there. And on the flip side, there is freedom in being independent and making your own way (my oldest son is about to experience this). There’s a tinge of fear the first time you drive a car, but that often fades with experience. There are a number of other things we do each and every day that may scare us. Being a parent is a scary endeavor. Interviewing for a job can be intimidating. Moving to a new place and meeting new people can be scary. But when you look at all of these scenarios, it comes down to fear of the unknown. The “what-ifs” that exist out there in the abyss. The questions we can’t answer. The scenarios we cannot predict or forsee.

And there’s that old nag, the Fear of Failure and his first cousin the Fear of Success. What? You’ve never heard of the Fear of Success? He runs in the same circles as the Fear of Failure. It’s that unsettling feeling of doing something really well, and then having to raise the bar. Having to outdo what you’ve just done. It’s not the worry you will fail, but rather, you fear that you may not have it in you to keep succeeding. There’s a distinct difference. And I find myself faced with this albatross of an emotion more times than not. It’s that little voice that questions my direction. It’s that feeling that I am not worthy of success. It’s that whisper that says, “You’ve done well enough, why don’t you quit while you’re ahead?” Sometimes the volume is deafening and I find myself questioning my next steps. Worrying. Wondering if I have what it takes to keep achieving.

And then, when I am at the brink of giving in, I find the strength and courage to quiet the noise. I evict that negativity from my thoughts and I keep moving. I keep swimming. Because I am willing to do the work and I am worthy of the success.

And so are you.

I write this to remind us all to “keep swimming” regardless of what scares us. Don’t allow Fear’s ugly stepsister, Insecurity to buy property in your mind. That’s prime real estate! And it’s not for sale to her or any of her shady relatives.

On a side note, I write this as a public service announcement: don’t let your kids watch scary movies with creepy twins and isolated hotels. But do try the Jiffy Pop! It will take you back to childhood with the sound of the first kernel popping!

Introducing Our New Every Woman Bloggers: Meet Angie Sloan

Angie SloanLast week, I had the pleasure of meeting some of my fellow Every Woman bloggers. Their stories were inspiring and I cannot wait to read more about them. It’s an honor to write with such an interesting group. This week, I thought I’d introduce myself! Here it goes…

My name is Angie Sloan. I am the single mother to 3 wonderful kids. In the last 18 months, I have lost both of my parents, who I cared for during the last five years of their lives. I have worked in healthcare for the last 19 years and love the opportunity to help others. I am new to the area, having relocated with work from Augusta, GA. I enjoy blogging, reading and taking long walks in the park. There you go, that’s the elevator speech.

Here is the rest of the story.

I am an extroverted introvert who loves meeting new people, but equally enjoys solitude. I am just as comfortable running with the pack as I am being the lone wolf. I speak conversational French, but accidentally ordered eel for lunch when I visited Paris a few years ago. Obviously, I need some practice. I have a fun, but twisted sense of humor and try to find the “funny” in everything. I don’t take myself too seriously, as evidenced by my eyebrows and my gray roots; both are in dire need of an intervention. I have birthed a child for each adult decade of my life, one at 24, one at 36 and one at 41. My world is best described as organized chaos. And unbeknownst to my friends and family, I am not a superhero. I don’t own a cape and Spandex/Lycra are less than flattering on me. But if I were one, I would be “The Justifier” and my motto would be, “Why choose? Buy both.” Truly, life is too short. If you want the shoes, buy the shoes.

Over the last two years, I have written a blog about my experiences in the “sandwich” generation, caring for my kids and my parents, working and trying to maintain my sanity. Now that my parents have passed, I am adjusting to my new normal. I am no longer in a constant state of crisis. When I go to the grocery store, I can just shop for my household. I could actually take a vacation, OUT OF TOWN. I have time on the weekends for myself (and yet, I still don’t get my hair done). I honestly don’t know how to act with this time on my hands! But each day brings its own adventure and I plan to write here about the good and the bad, the funny and the mundane, and the little things that get me through each day. I hope you’ll join me on the journey!