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DEBRA HALE-SHELTON: Taking control where there is none

by Debra Hale-Shelton | December 22, 2019 at 2:00 a.m.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to be on the hyper side.

Lately, though, life has zoomed out of control, and so have I.

First, the usual adjustments followed my retirement in July--chiefly a significant drop in income. Still, I just bought two new tires for my 2001 Chevy Lumina and am preparing to spend another $200 to repair whatever it is that makes my car shake, rattle and roll when I hit the brakes. So for now, my dependable white Lumina appears to be the car of my future.

Second, I will have relocated across town to an apartment beside my mother's by the time you read this. That has meant packing and moving enough boxes to stock an Amazon warehouse and hiring someone to move my furniture. It also means two bedrooms instead of three and no garage to store a roughly seven-foot wooden snowman my mother crafted and gave me long ago.

Then, two days after Christmas, I'm to check into Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock to undergo bypass surgery and two other procedures, one involving an irregular heartbeat and the other involving something way over my pay grade, especially if insurance didn't cover it.

Other major life changes also are at play, but I'm not prepared to write about them yet; maybe someday.

There is a lighter side to undergoing heart surgery as I approach the end of my 60s. (There, I said it. I rarely talk about my age unless I'm asked point blank. I'd prefer to do what I did in my 40s and pretend I'm 10 years younger than I really am, but few people have had as many jobs, hometowns and, blessedly, friends as I have in their 30s or even 40s.)

I've been going to what the Heart Hospital calls surgery "prehabilitation" where I work out a couple times a week with a trainer to strengthen my legs, arms and chest, to see how fast I can march in place, to do some leg moves that at times feel as if I'm training to be an aging ballerina. Sometimes I lift weights. I'm best at the 3-pounders, the smallest available. At other times I just walk, though not remotely as fast as my 20-pound Chiweenie when she's chasing a cat.

The marching-in-place is perhaps the easiest and most fun, thanks to my six years in the Marked Tree High School Band and one day (more on that another time) in the Arkansas State University band. I also have my dad to thank for my marching skills.

I was in about the seventh grade and preparing to hit the football field with my squeaky clarinet in tow when Daddy realized I could not march in step. He was more athletically inclined than I've ever been and more inventive in choosing a workout site that was near our home and free. So what more could he ask than the main aisle in the auditorium of the church building where we worshipped?

This was the same church that never would have allowed a piano or an organ, much less a clarinet, inside during services. So I'd march up and down the aisle as Daddy shouted, "Right, left, right, left. ..."

While I could work out anywhere, the advantage to the hospital sessions is that my heartbeat is monitored before, during and after the exercises with the help of electrodes and cables attached to my body and connected to an electrocardiographic recorder.

I am more physically fit than I was a month ago. But I'm not ready for any before-and-after testimonials with photographs on TV or in magazines.

I canceled last week's workouts, though, so that I could work out at home by packing everything from hundreds of books to enough dishes to feed the Duggars for a year and then some. I'm a collector of dishes, cookbooks, dolls and anything remotely sentimental, from newspaper articles I wrote decades ago to teapots and enough loose-leaf tea to keep a Chinese province afloat.

Some flavored green teas, by the way, are one of the few foods and beverages I enjoy that also are healthy for me, according to a brochure the hospital gave me. I also enjoy growing and eating healthy herbs from rosemary to oregano and various varieties of basil and mint. I've even grown my own "holy basil" for homemade tulsi tea.

I can truthfully say that all I want for Christmas this year is a healthy heart, unpacked boxes and my family. Ideally, I'd also take a new car, maybe even a Lexus, as long it doesn't jerk, sway, get lost or cost me more than this month's paycheck.

Debra Hale-Shelton can be emailed at dhaleshelton@gmail.com. Tweet her at @nottalking.

Editorial on 12/22/2019

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