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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

The Runaway Mama

The other day, Dylan said to me, “Six years ago I was dead.”  We were at the gas station.  I was pumping gas, and Dylan and Riley were hanging out the window.

I replied, “No, you weren’t dead.  You just weren’t born yet.”

Then he said, “I was dead when I was in your belly.”

I replied, “No, you weren’t.  You were growing inside of me.”

Then he said, “Look, I’m dead,” and his body went limp.

Then Riley said, “Look, I’m dead, too,” and he went limp next to his brother.

“Neither of you are dead,” I said.

Then Dylan said, “Two years ago I was dead and now I’m back.”

After that zinger, I changed the subject.

The ease with which my kids talk about, think about, and imitate death astounds me.  Equally surprising is the ease with which I talk about it with them.  Dylan has, on…

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The Buzz - Investment and Stock Market News

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul R. La Monica. Other than Time Warner, the parent of CNNMoney, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie, La Monica does not own positions in any individual stocks.

The Dow is at a record high and the S&P 500 is thisclose to joining its blue chip brother. But as investors become more and more giddy about stocks, bonds have suffered collateral damage.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note is currently hovering at a level just north of 2%. While that’s still extremely low by historical standards, it’s an 11-month high. And yields, which rise when bond prices fall, were as low as 1.56% as recently as early December. So bonds have sold off pretty dramatically in a period of three months … the same time stocks have surged.

As long as the U.S. economy continues to show gradual (albeit tepid)…

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Hope is Given to those in Need

Faith in humanity is restored when stories like this reach the inbox. The sixth annual Starlight Dinner Dance to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will be held this Friday March 8th at The Pontelandolfo Club in Waterbury, CT.

Since opening it’s doors back in 1962, the hospital has an average of 260 patients passing through it’s doors each day, which averages out to a total of 5,700 patients annualy. An impressive number, but what’s even more impressive is the amount of work they do. They continue to help treat and prevent catastrophic diseases in children. It goes without saying, but taking care of children is of upmost importance. After all, these are the leaders of tomorrow. If we don’t take care of them, who will? Who will give our children the strength and hope they need to move on? It’s people like you and I who have to come together to help those who can’t necessarily help themselves.

This fantastic elegant event will feature some familiar faces as Chaz and AJ from 99.1 WPLR will be emceeing while guests enjoy cocktails, a silent auction, a five course dinner, and of course a lot of dancing. A world of fun for all while giving children suffering a world of hope, which is just one of the most important ingredients needed in recovery.

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Therapy Through Nature in the Torrington Backwoods

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” -Albert Einstein

The recovery process since my motor vehicle accident has been a long one. Each day, there seems to be a new bump in the road of life. Through it all, however, I have found a great sense of therapy taking in the fresh air as I hike along the trails by my Torrington, CT home. It is here that I am surrounded by nothing but an ample forest and solitude. Hiking along the trails is something I normally do, though as of late it has allowed me to reflect on life and be thankful that I have been given yet another day to walk along the trails.

We take so much for granted. Waking up is not always guaranteed. We live such busy lives. We often forget to unwind and enjoy what we have around us before we simply lose out on the opportunity, then we live with the regret. I believe one of the biggest take aways from this whole experience has been to unwind. Stress plays a major factor in the disease. There’s just something so great about getting up in the morning and hitting the trail, each day seeing something totally new that you didn’t see the day before. These are the little things in life that make us smile, and often because we’re so busy, we don’t take the time out for ourselves to enjoy it.

So many of you have asked me what is my secret to remaining so strong in the recovery process. While there is no doubt this is one of the ways, I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by such great company on this road of life. Wether it’s going out to dinner, or sharing a few laughs together on social media, I feel truly blessed to have each of you in my life in some way, shape, or form. They say you are the company keep, and that couldn’t hold any more true.

When life comes at you fast, take the break you need. Go out and find yourself. There’s a whole world outside your door just waiting for you to explore, and here in the Torrington backwoods, the exploration has continued to help me remain positive while appreciating the present and looking forward towards the future.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs

Stress Test Proves My Abnormalities

This past Thursday morning I was brought into the hospital for my stress test. Ever have one? They’re not fun! Not that they’re testing to see if I’m stressed out, I’m not, they brought me in so that they could purposely stress out the heart to see if they could bring on some of the symptoms that I’m experiencing. As luck would have it, it worked! Not exactly the way my cardiologist had expected it to, however.

With vasovagel syncope, I’m supposed to experience my symptoms when my blood pressure drops, and I do. We found out, however, that it also happens when my blood pressure increases, which is a whole new mold of vasovagel syncope. My blood pressure climbed to 190. It was there that I experienced the onset of lightheadedness which eventually led to passing out. Not even ten minutes into my treadmill run and I had to be taken off and laid on a bed to regain consciousness. My cardiologist was stunned, at a loss for words without any answers to provide. I’m one of the rarest cases of this disease, and quite possibily a whole brand new kind of it entirely.

My cardiologist has now suggested I see an athletic cardiologist at Hartford Hospital, one who specializes in treating athletes. My hopes are that he may have some kinds of answers as to why I’m experiencing these symptoms at both levels of the spectrum. Will he? We can’t say for certain.

Through it all, I’ve been standing strong. It’s obvious that this condition continues to grow worse as doctors are working quikly to find out the answers in this extremely rare case. In the meantime, I’m on medication to help keep my blood pressure from dropping to rapid levels in the event of an attack. My blood pressure usually sits at 120. It’s now sitting at 140 with taking this medication three times daily. During an attack, my blood pressure has the tendency to drop to 60!

Over the next month, I’ll continue to be tested on the medication as well as be equipped with another heart monitor. I wish I knew where to go from here, but one thing is for sure, I’m not going to let it get the best of me.

So, What I’m Saying Is…..

Life isn’t always easy. I think that’s what I’m trying to say. The news I was hoping to have heard from the doctor today did not come to fruition. I continue to be homebound and on a driving restriction until further notice. My leave from work has now been extended out until late March. Not welcome news for someone who so desperately wants a return to normalcy.

The grim news comes on the heels of my most recent attack this past Saturday. Due to it’s severity and a growing concern for my heart, my medical team continues to keep me under their care. I wish I could say better, but I can’t. The doctors have set up multiple tests in order to dive deeper into the problem. A stress test will be conducted Thursday morning and now a tilt table test will also be scheduled. A tilt table test aims to purposely cause the attacks to happen. I wasn’t too keene on the idea as you could imagine. I’m scared enough of the attacks that take place randomly.

Through the studies, the doctors will also now be throwing medicine at me, something they initially backed down from doing. Do I know where I’m going from here? Do the doctors really know what is going on with my body? The answer to both of those questions is no. It’s an uncertainty that I am scared of. At this point, the doctors are exploring every level of possibility as well as everything they can do medically. One thing is for certain; I’m stuck with this. Wether they come to a conclussion or not, it will be something I will be living and caring for as I grow older.

So, what I’m saying is, I’m still not going to die, honest. I am, however, in between a rock and a hard place. No life is ever easy. My mind is fringing on what to do next and just where do I go from here. There are talks of the possibility that I could never drive again, or for an even more extended amount of time. That just can’t be. News like that is hard to swallow, especially for someone who’s young and energetic like myself.

Alas, it might be the energy that will harm me in the end. Having too much of a good thing, is usually a bad thing. I’ll contine to fight the good fight. It’s a long battle, but hey, I guess someone’s got to do it, and God picked me.

Fighting for Normalcy in an Abnormal Environment

It has been nearly two and a half months since my motor vehicle accident that has left me out of work and homebound since late December. While I have healed from the physical injuries, I have yet to make a recovery with the inside of my body. I continue to fight an uphill battle in dealing with the vasovagel syncope. Last month, my cardiologist diagnosed me with it and said it wasn’t going to be easy and that it was incurable. While the symptoms may get better in time, it will never go away, nor is there a guarantee that any of it will get better.

The battle I face echoes thousands in the same position I am in, though the particular predictment; maybe a few hundred. Having crashed my car after having a vasovagel attack is rare. Not many people black out while they are driving, but I did, and also had three black outs total in a year. The doctors have put me on a strict car diet, as in if I dare get behind the wheel I risk not having a license ever again. People with my severity of the disease generally are not allowed to drive for an extended period of time due to the fact that I’m likely to get into a serrious accident or potentially cause great harm to myself. I have only a few seconds of warning about the attacks, not minutes, making it near uncontrollable.

As of late, I had thought I was improving slightly. No attacks for one week was an improvement to the near daily attacks I was having. However, this all proved wrong this past Saturday night when I suffered three attacks in one hour. The first,
subtle. The second, pressuring but I dealt with it. The third, I collapsed.

To say any of this is easy would be misleading. To say it’s hard would be an all out understatement. Am I afraid? Absolutely. I don’t know what could happen from one minute to the next and the fear of death still plagues each attack. I’m scheduled to return back to work this Friday, and my hope is that I can. This homebound stuff is not for me in any stretch of the imagination. It’s Monday evening, however, and I’m still not sure if it’s certainty. The last visit I had with my cardioligist last week was grim, and I’m still plagued with not being able to drive.

Due to the nature of the disease, I will be having a stress test on Thursday morning. The visit with my main doctor is tommorow afternoon. My hopes are that he can give me some kind of clearnace, some kind of return to normalcy, even though my life prior to that December day will never return. I have had to make numerous lifestyle changes, most of which are diet changes and changes to my daily schedule.

While I’m in no grave danger, the situation warrants extreme monitoring. One thing is certain; no matter where this road takes me, I am committed to being the strong, optimistic individual that I have become.

#GoExplore Daily Moment of Zen for 2/23/13

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Today’s #GoExplore Daily Moment of Zen comes from scenic Stowe, Vermont. Stowe is located just due east of Lake Champlain and bordering the Canadian border. The mountain boasts as Vermont’s highest elevation. This picture, taken at sunset, is one of the many benefits that residents and tourists alike enjoy. The mountains are calling, are you answering?

Have an idea for a #GoExplore Daily Moment of Zen? Tweet to @TheMikeValletta with the hashtag #GoExplore. Your suggestion could be featured here!

Happy in a Sad State

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Okay. So recently Connecticut has been labeled a sad state in terms of state rankings based on tweets. This study just so happens to come from one of the happiest states, Vermont. Now, generally I would agree whole heartedly about particular areas of Connecticut being just downright miserable. Those in the inner cities and larger metropolotian areas seem to be the most stressed out, and for good reason. Violence plagues those areas, but what about those of us in the rural corners of Connecticut, are we part of that equation at all?

Roughly about five years ago, I moved to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut for a change of pace. Life is slower in good old northwesten Connecticut. The people are generally friendlier, and life is anything but normal. In fact, my life has become much more entertaining and carefree thanks to that good old mountain attitude carried with some backwards ways of life. Life, at least in this part of Connecticut, is very much a replica of the happiest state, Vermont. We are surrounded by natural elements. Towering pines, flowing rivers, lakes with mountain vistas, and old world country stores where you can get a cup of coffee and chat with your fellow neighbors. The life I live, along with many others in this part of the state, is a happy one.

With low crime rates, an abundance of fresh air, and a life of calm and peace, we are far from the least happiest people on the face of this earth. I would welcome the people who did this survey to reconsider their stance on labeling a state as happy or not happy. Just because one particular area has an infestation of negativity, does not necessarily mean thier attitude represents the state as whole. In fact, you may want to ask our city slicker weekenders why they bother coming up here if it’s such a horrible place to be. I’m sure they will be asking you what you mean by horrible. It’s downright gorgeous, and though we are a small state, we differ in so many ways.

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