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YEAR OF THE EARTH DOG

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According to the Chinese Horo... According to the Chinese Horoscope, 2018 is the year of the earth dog. Can we use the qualities of the dog to enhance our physical and mental health?
Dogs deserve their title of 'man's best friend'. They're loyal, intelligent, devoted and affectionate and don't talk back. Through almost all of are married life we had dogs. Sam also used to say, "They teach us about death - because they have relatively short lives. Specially, growing up on the farm, the animals taught us about dying."

For sure, these good qualities in my relatives and friends have sustained me this past month as I have faced my new life alone after Sam passed on New Years Eve.

One of the most helpful books was given to me by cousin Sharon: HEALING GRIEF, FINDING PEACE, by Louis E LaGrande. I like the first quote in chapter one by Helen Keller, "When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life or the life of another."



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JANUARY 13TH MEMORIES

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Drawn by Kirin to remember ... Drawn by Kirin to remember Grandpa today on his birthday. There are also 13 layers of the cake and yellow was Sam's favorite color.
Today is January 13th, Sam’s birthday. Tomorrow is January 14th, my birthday. Shortly after we started seeing each other every day in 1960, I was studying for my Public Health degree at the U of W school of Nursing and Sam was working late in his dental lab in the Medical Dental Building. He said something about being born on Friday the 13th. The Seattle phone book had a listing of calendars that year and I was able to find that January 13 was a Friday the 13th in 1933. That further solidified that maybe we were meant to be together.

In 1971 we decided to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary with a trip to Japan. We needed a copy of Sam’s birth certificate for the visa. We went to the King County Vital Statistics office on 4th Avenue and were amazed to find all the 1s & 3s: born on 1/13/33, Friday the 13th, at 3am, at 1303 Washington Street, Mother 23, Father 33.

Sam said, “I only had one party when I was 13 years old.” In 1964 I planned a surprise party when he turned 31. Those are the only two birthday parties he participated in as far as I know. I brought sushi to Dr. Branch's office in the Medical Dental building, one year as a surprise. We could not get Sam to come up to the eighth floor to participate. When David Branch went down to get him, Sam locked his lab door on the fourth floor and through the door said, “I said I didn’t want a party so leave me alone.”

I’m further in the mood to play a Johnny Horton CD with songs like NORTH TO ALASKA & BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS that was a Sam favorite.

ALL FOR THE LOVE OF… “Life was so sweet dear… you’ve gone and left me. All for the love of …”

Horton died at age 35, but left a legacy of his love for freedom, bravery, heroics in the building of our country. One of Sam’s last comments when asked, “What are you most grateful for today?”

His answer, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Today, Sam’s brother and sister are coming over. Lynette is here. We can do what we want with his memory. He would have been 85 years old. Eight and Five add up to thirteen?????

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COPING - CONNECTING - CONTRIBUTING

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Drawn by our 10-yr-old gran... Drawn by our 10-yr-old granddaughter, Kirin. I verbally asked her to help me by drawing three c's for a blog post and she came up with this in just a few minutes.
"Any fool can criticize, complain and condemn; most fools do." -B Franklin Too may of us spend our time foolishly it's true.

I've lost a partner and what I am valuing the most are the thoughts and messages I am receiving. I trust that I'm coping by going over the memories of the great 56+years we had together. I am valuing the connections. I intend to keep using my connections to help me alter the plans Sam and I had for these next few years and continue to contribute without his drawings.

Sam liked the feeling that he was ahead with his comics so the North American Post will have his comics for a few more issues. I can still continue our writing projects, but will miss his input.

I realize we have the next generation coming along. Kirin says, "I'm not ready yet," but I got her to do this as she was packing to go back home last week.

This may help me revive and continue my enthusiasm for continuing the legacy that Sam helped with - the links in history and now will continue.

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THE GAME?? - HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018

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In the 1980s I organized an English pronunciation class for five or six Japanese wives at the Shorewood apartments on Mercer Island. The class was with the wives of a group of young doctors who had come from Japan to work at Dr. Hakomori’s Cancer Research Lab with Fred Hutchinson Institute.

During one of the classes, Tamami complained about in-laws coming for a visit and everyone commiserated. Her father-in-law was a physician and owned a medical clinic. She was dreading the need to play the role of a proper Japanese daughter-in-law. She was in the United States where those of us with Japanese heritage had shed many of the more cumbersome family obligations and rituals. Changes were also occurring with many of the more modern wives in Japan so Tamami seemed to be looking for an excuse to be more American.

As the teacher, as a wife with grown children and with an interest in psychology, I developed my own “game”. My Masters in Psychosocial Nursing was THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN AND HOW THEY USE SOCIAL SUPPORT. Customs and rituals evolve for coping, creating connections and contributing; which are my 3 C’s of a healthy way to live life. According to historian, Richard White, in his book FOR WHICH IT STANDS, three of life’s bench marks is “making a home, launching our children and preparing for our old age”.

I suggested Tamami consider the in-law visit a short term “game”. With this new perspective, she reported to me, “It was a tremendous success.” Years later, when I made a trip to Japan, Tamami treated me to lunch at the top of one of the famous hotels in Tokyo’s Shinjiku district and we again talked about the game.

Life is a “game” and particularly in the game of marriage there is a physical difference between men and women. Successful relationships require healthy choices and gamesmanship. Our Goto-Health team is inspired to explore and pursue possible game plans as we look to a new year of possibilities.

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Techs vs Pros

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Kirin went to Children’s Orthopedic Clinic today for a sprained wrist and was treated by “Dr. Job” as referred to by the staff because of his extraordinary empathetic bedside manner. That is because he treats the whole of the person involved in a treatment.

Kirin left the appointment saying, “I think I should break my other wrist so I can see him again.”

A few days before Thanksgiving 2017, Sam was given a suggestion that Chiropractic adjustment can be effective for the uncomfortable feeling he had that might be a result of his esophagus was backing up with gas.

Sam made an appointment with a local Chiropractor, but when he got to his appointment the practitioner took x-rays and wanted to address Sam’s whole spine. He wouldn’t listen to Sam’s immediate issues. They argued and Sam came home exclaiming, “He’s just a technician, not a real professional!!”

Three days later, Sam went to Overtake emergency with shortness of breath and Congestive Heart failure. There was a quart of fluid under his right lung that was aspirated. He was twelve days in the hospital where a bunch of “professionals” did their technical stuff like angiograms, CT scans, blood work, IVs.

There was one particular nurse, Baron, who was a professional like Dr. Job and took the time to figure out what the patient wanted and needed.

Kirin and I had a discussion about what it meant to be a professional. We decided a professional is someone who learns a set of skills, but goes on to learn some more about how to understand the customer/patient and listen to what is needed. A good professional isn’t there just to make money or dispense their skills/goods.

Here are 5 suggestions:
Put customer’s satisfaction first - connect
Share your knowledge; keep learning
Praise your team not yourself
Do more than expected - contribute
Say Thank you

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PAIN?

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Sam has spent his whole life putting himself in "pain", meeting deadlines making teeth, exploring Tikal, building and fixing our house, working on his antique cars and drawing comic strips.

Yesterday, when the Hospice Care nurse was here, she observed Sam having his episode of shortness of breath. She immediately asked me to go get the Morphine in the Hospice medical kit and gave Sam 5mg of Morphine.

It made Sam sleepy and he took a long nap, but he didn't like not being able to wake up. So, today, we are trying to not use Morphine and just going through the episodes of shortness-of-breath and being uncomfortable.





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Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas
My office is all in boxes and has been converted to a Hospice sleeping room. The Christmas stationary can't be easily found so I will send our greetings in these ways.

Thanks for all the prayers and thoughts from family and friends as we work to overcome this crisis in whatever way.

Sam has earned a lot of back rubs, foot rubs and back scratches which he is enjoying.

Looking forward to 2018, the year of the Dog. He just completed his Comic Strip for the New Year Edition of the North American Post.

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FACING DEATH

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Granddaughter, Kirin says, “Fate got distracted and didn’t cut the strings.”

At age 85, Sam is facing a new phase of life. He says, “I put it off, but I still haven’t done my obituary comic strip. That’s what Charles Schultz did.” Misa at the North American Post is also expecting a comic strip about the year of the dog for their New Year Edition.

We are not afraid of death and might be convinced that we can look forward to the next journey where we have to learn and make new choices. But first we don’t want to waste what we can do and learn here and now. Kirin expresses it for us in a thoughtful way as she memorized and recites to us, Bette Midler’s THE ROSE:

Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed
Its the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
Its the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
AND THE SOUL AFRAID OF DYING; THAT NEVER LEARNS TO LIVE!

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SAVING THE HEART FOR DRAWING AND COMICS

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We just about lost Sam after Thanksgiving as he had Congestive Heart Failure. We went to Overlake Emergency with shortness of breath.
• His Aortic Valve doesn’t close and all his coronary arteries are blocked
• His heart is 20% and too weak to withstand open-heart surgery so the physicians would not operate – he’s not going to get better without surgery, but maybe he’s been operating on 20% for a long time.
• His biggest problem at the hospital was no sleep and no eating because everything tasted so bad and he had nausea from the medications.


He is now on Hospice Care - He came home December 5th
• He is eating better - sashimi was good tonight and tonight we are planning on trout.
• He can walk around the main floor without help but, he’s not supposed to climb stairs. So we have a granddaughter policing the situation and keeping him on track.
• The nurse and social workers came by to assure us they are just a phone call away if we need someone – incredible service and great people.

We’re working on convincing Sam to save whatever is left of his heart for drawing, comic strips and putting together books for a legacy of good Japanese/American values for the next generations.

We have an incredible network of family and friends taking care of our needs and it is so neat! Sam says, “It’s so nice to hear the voices of the grandchildren downstairs.”

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I PRAYED FOR YOU TODAY

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These are some comforting words I found in the "family room" on the East 2nd Floor of Overlake Hospital as I waited for one of Sam's procedures.

Even though I wasn’t sure
Exactly what to say,
I talked to God and spoke your name.
I prayed for you today.
I asked the Lord to give you strength,
To calm you from your stress,
To free you from the things you fear
And bathe your mind with rest.
I asked the Lord to help you
In the uphill days to come,
I asked our precious loving God
To complete what he’s begun
He whispered in the quiet
And He filled my heart with peace.
He said that you are deeply loved
And that his love won’t cease.

-Greg Asimakoupoulos

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