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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

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Mike Valletta

A Singles Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is on its way. I would normally be jumping out of my skin at this point since I’m naturally a very generous person, especially around a holiday aimed around generosity and appreciation.

This year, not so much. As someone who is recently single, the focus has been primarily on me, and not so much on any partner that I have. It’s an odd feeling. One I am certainly getting aquatinted to all over again. It’s a process, and it’s one that is taken one day at a time. We’ve all been there.

I mainly rely on friends to occupy the time, not because I’m seeking attention, but because they are the foundation of my life and my support system. Where would we be in life without good friends and a good bottle of wine? We would be slaving our day away stomping grapes and drinking the fruits of our labor in self pity and sorrow, that’s where. It’s great to have people producing this stuff for you so you can enjoy a couple of bottles in good company. Yes, a couple.

So, what are my intentions this Valentine’s Day, you ask? Focusing on the self for starters. You cannot love others without putting yourself first and foremost. It is imperative that you take the time out to enjoy the skin you’re in. If you don’t have the ability to fall in love with yourself, then your love for others isn’t as significant. There has to be a balance. It’s the way of life.

I’ll also be spending time in good company. I’m looking forward to it. There’s people in your life that truly make you who you are, and it’s important to spend as much time as you can around the people that bring value to your life. What better day than Valentine’s Day to show a little appreciation.

If there’s anything being single has taught me, it is that I don’t constantly need a man to make me happy. I am happy. I am happy with the people that surround me. Life is grand, and it’s just getting started all over again.

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Get Massaged into a Better You.

Have you ever really been in need of a massage? I’m sure you have. After all, many of us live high demanding lives that causes an increased amount of stress on our bodies.

I booked a massage this past week at my local Massage Envy, noting that I have a monthly membership. After a solid week on the slopes up in Vermont, my body was yearning for a treatment!

I decided on a hot stone massage. My therapist assured me that this would release a great deal of tension in the body as well as help to unwind the mind. Fair enough. After a long vacation away from reality, it was nice to be soothed back into the real world again.

The stone massage was amazing. It was everything that I had thought it would be. Hot stones rubbed along the body, along with a series of hot stones on my back and in between my toes. The feeling was absolutely sensational and relaxing.

Next up, a facial. I was in dire need of that. The rough winter skin has been sneaking up on me and causing absolute dryness. Absolute yuck.

My facial therapist and I really connected well. Maybe that was because she told me she would help me look about ten years younger. Anyone that tells you that, you’re going to become best friends!

The facial went extremely well. We diagnosed just how dry my face was, and worked to restore it back to its original shine. After about an hour of treatment, I was impressed. I kept looking in the mirror and wanted to touch my face to see if it was real. Sadly, I got told hands off! The oils on your fingers cause break outs. Duly noted.

Massage Envy offers an incredible experience to each guest, and I could not be anymore pleased with how this past session went. Not only is a massage great to release built up pressure in your body, it’s also great for mental health. Focusing on you and your body can really make you a better, more focused of a person. 

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Summer, Where Are You?

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There’s no doubt that this has been a long winter for us in New England. The days were cold. The nights were even colder. The snow was, well, let’s not even talk about the snow. The fact of the matter here is, that sometime after forty inches, we grew anxious for spring to come, and quite frankly what was another couple of inches on the ground this past week in Connecticut to top things off.

Yes, winter. A season we all love to hate. As a skier, however, I usually live for winter! Not so this season as I was out due to a medical condition. Oh sure, it was great to look at, but now I know just how all you snow haters feel; exhausted!

Like many, I got out to enjoy the tease that mother nature threw at us. Saturday was nearly fifty degrees and Sunday was nearly sixty! All this after having a foot of wet snow dumped on us on Friday. I mean really, I don’t know what that nutcase we call a mother was thinking. Clearly she just needs to be medicated and thrown into rehab. Actually, a padded room sounds more justifiable.

I took a walk around the trails here at home in Torrington. Burr Pond offers a fantastic setting if you’re looking to unwind and unplug a bit. A nice trail that, unfortunately was still very snow covered, ropes around the entire length of the pond and offers some pretty fantastic views of the area from it’s upper slopes. I do this walk quite often, though due to my condition as of late, I’ve had to make sure I bring along a hiking partner in the event that I collapse…in the snow. Thanks, mother nature. Natural padding. I get it. You’re looking out for my best interests. You can stop though, really.

On the horizon, however, there’s talk of more snow for next week. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Am I the only one dreaming of summer nights on the beach with a tent and a bonfire? That day still seems so distant.

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!

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