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Humbled. Touched. In Awe of You.

Yesterday, in the early afternoon, I received a call informing me Anthem Blue Cross had reversed their decision to deny my benefits for a permanent neurostimulator.

Just like that, the surgery is now approved!

(It's currently scheduled for November 10th, but the date could be changed.)

I never thought I could be so happy about facing another surgery.

For those of you who don't know what happened yesterday – let me tell you.

First, I wrote this post sharing my story of being denied medical benefits by my insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross.

And then …

And then – you dear, sweet, amazing, Internet Friends astonished me with love and support.

I've never seen anything like it.


Several bloggers put my story on their blogs.  (I love each and every one of you!)

Powerful, wonderful, friends put my story on facebook and twitter.

My twitter friends?

Twitter went absolutely insane – in a good way.

So many people were telling my story, linking to my blog post, contacting important/influential people and/or media on my behalf.  Thousands upon thousands of people heard about my story on Twitter alone.

Some of you even offered to help pay for my surgery …

(I would never, ever, accept such an offer – but I was SO touched by the thought.)

By early afternoon yesterday, NBC, CBS, Clear Channel and just about every other media outlet you can imagine had stopped by to read my story.

Have I mentioned – I'm still amazed at what you accomplished?

I was then contacted by Anthem Blue Cross, and an hour or so later by their parent company, Wellpoint.

Just a short while later I got a call from my doctor's office saying, "It's the weirdest thing – Blue Cross just changed their mind and approved your surgery!"

They were baffled.

I wasn't.

I love you guys – I really do.

I wish I could hug each and every single one of you.

I wish I could email a thank you to each one of you, but there were literally hundreds (thousands!) of people involved in helping me.

I hope this will suffice …

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Health Care Gone Terribly Wrong

I wanted to be clear-headed to write this post.  I wanted it to be perfect because it is, I think, the most important post I've ever written.

Instead, I'm a little foggy brained because my pain level is through the roof right now and I couldn't handle the pain without pain meds.

I ask you, upfront, to forgive the imperfections in my writing today and to read with your heart.  I ask you, please, to forgive the grammatical and punctuation errors I might make and feel my words instead.

My words have never come from my heart more than they do right now.

Four and a half years ago a man ran a stop sign and t-boned my car.  My life was forever altered in a matter of seconds.  Since that time, I've gone through seven surgeries.  I've logged thousands of hours of physical therapy, and I've cried buckets of tears.  

My most severe injury as a result of the car accident was the loss of the use of my right, dominant, arm.  Now, four and a half years – and seven surgeries later, I have around 20-25% use of my arm. 

The loss of the function of my dominant arm has proved to be a challenging obstacle.

The pain I now live in – every minute of every day - is beyond most people's ability to understand.

It was with cautious optimism, I recently went through my seventh surgery for the "trial" of a neurostimulator.  A neurostimulator is a device which has successfully helped thousands of people with chronic pain.

Insurance companies will not authorize the implant of a neurostimulator without first having a patient go through a trial period to make sure it works for that particular individual. 

My medical insurance is with Anthem Blue Cross.

Anthem Blue Cross requires candidates for neurostimulators to also go through psychological screening to make sure they can handle, psychologically, having an implant in their body.

Anthem Blue Cross approved the cost of a pain psychologist consultation for me as one of the necessary steps towards getting a neurostimulator.  The pain psychologist proceeded to "clear" me as a good candidate.

Next, Anthem Blue Cross approved the actual cost of the surgery.

Last, Anthem Blue Cross approved the cost of the neurostimulator device to be used during the trial period.

Yes, it took separate insurance approval of all three steps for me to undergo a trial of the device.

I underwent Surgery #7 two weeks ago today, with the hope for a better life.

The trial was deemed an unquestionable success.  

I can't even put into words the joy (!), the hope (!), and the renewed sense of possibilities I experienced.  This "device" is so much more than a device.  It's a chance for me to live a more normal life.


During the one week trial period, my use of narcotic pain meds went down substantially.  The function of my arm increased.   I slept through the night two nights in a row.  Does that sound minor to you?  Prior to the trial period, I hadn't slept through the night once in four and a half years.

Try imagining for a minute, you are living in so much pain you are unable to get even one full night's sleep for four and a half years.  

The device?

Was life changing.

No, the neurostimulator will not give me back full function of my arm.

No, it will not make me pain-free.

What the device did during the trial period, is improve the quality of my life remarkably.  

It also gave me hope.

I wrote a letter to a friend after the trial, telling him all the things I planned to do once I got the permanent neurostimulator implanted.  I listed things I haven't been able to do since the accident four and a half years ago.  

I closed the letter like this:  "2011 is going to be my year of great strides … I just know it!"

I believed, truly believed for the first time in years, I was finally going to get a portion of my old life back again.

Yesterday afternoon, I came home to a devastating message from my doctor.  

Anthem Blue Cross has denied me benefits for the implant of a permanent neurostimulator.

My doctor was angry – and floored.

A "review" doctor from Blue Cross talked to him.  My doctor asked why they would approve the cost of psychological screening, the cost of the initial surgery, and the cost of the trial device and then turn me down for the permanent implant when the trial was a resounding success.

The doctor for Blue Cross?

"Well …," he answered, "I don't know."

If Blue Cross doesn't know why they would make such an asinine decision, who would?

To say I'm devastated, that my hopes have been crushed, that my spirit has sunk to its lowest low … does not begin to describe how I feel.

Why would Blue Cross put me through the trial surgery if they have no intention of allowing me to get permanent help through the use of this device?  

I went through a seventh surgery for no reason?

Help me to understand that.

Why, why, why? 

My doctor wrote a letter of protest to Blue Cross and informed them he would be sending a copy to the California State Insurance Commission also.  I will do whatever I can on my end to attempt to appeal the decision also.

I've never asked anything like this before …

But Internet – I really need your help.

What Anthem Blue Cross is doing is wrong on so many levels.  

I need to find people who can tell me what to do, where to start, and how I can be helped.

I need to draw attention and publicity to my situation.  

How else can one, lone, person fight an unfair decision by a huge, greedy, medical insurance company?

Internet, tell me …

How can I possibly -

Get my hope back? 

** Follow-up to this post can be found by clicking here. **

© Twenty Four At Heart  

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Divorce is in the Air

In the last two days, two couples I know have informed me they're divorcing.

I don't know if I can even tally up all the couples I know who have announced they're ending their marriages over the last couple months.  There seems to be an epidemic of divorcing couples in my circle of friends and acquaintances.

The fact so many couples are choosing to divorce, doesn't make it any less painful for my friends who are going through it.

Yesterday, a Twitter friend sent me a link to an article.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, or you can take my word for it when I sum it up in a few sentences.  

Basically, in the article a woman said she "saved" her marriage by "ignoring" her husband's request to end the marriage.  She said she decided to "not take it personally" when he announced he didn't love her, and perhaps never had.

The author stated that for four months her husband "became unreliable" and would come home late, and not bother to call.  He completely ignored her birthday (failing to even utter the words "happy birthday") and blew off holiday weekends.  If he talked to her at all, he avoided eye contact and acted distant.

I don't know what your take is on the above information, but to me it says "affair."  (Not that it really matters because, regardless, he was being a shithead.)

The author said she "waited it out" and compared her marital strategy on how a parent would react to a child's tantrum.  Eventually, her husband decided to stay in the marriage.  She tried to prove to the reader she's not a doormat personality, by informing us she's "handy" with a chain saw.  (??)  

She wrote the essay "to help other people" by sharing her advice/story.


I don't know where to begin, so I'm just going to list off some of my immediate thoughts on the above and then I'd love to hear what you think.

 1.  Why does it seem, men who are having affairs ALWAYS say the exact same thing?  They all use the same wording, "I don't love you and I don't know if I ever have" - and/or "I haven't in years."  (And no, the author of the article never does disclose if her husband had an affair, but it does seem implied in her writing.)

 2.  Many people walk away too quickly from their marriages.  I think this is one of the points the author was trying to make, and I agree with her.  

 3.  Many other people stay way too long in loveless/unhealthy marriages they should leave.

 4.  Marriage needs to be based on mutual respect, and in the author's account of her marriage I don't see where her husband had (has?) any respect for her, whatsoever.  (And to be honest, it doesn't seem like she has much respect for him either from the tone of her writing.)

 5.  If she's so handy with a chain saw, why didn't she use it?

 6.  Just kidding about number 5.  Sorta …

 7.  I don't believe a spouse just decides one day, with no previous warning, to walk out.  There are warning signs – we just sometimes prefer to live in denial and not see them.  

 8.  What about marriage counseling as an option instead of a) waving as he walks out the door or b) accepting being treated like shit "for the sake of" saving your family.  Your family will always be your family – even if you divorce.  Both parents may not live in the same house as the children, but those kids still have a mother and father who love them.

 9.  Why did she want someone who treated her so poorly?  Where is her self respect? 

10.  The author repeatedly states her husband's actions weren't about her, but about his own midlife crisis.  I'm not discounting the fact that men (and women) can go through midlife crises, but really?  She doesn't accept any responsibility, at all, for anything negative in her marriage.  I'm sorry, but there are two people in a marriage and I have yet to meet a single person who is relationship-perfect every minute of every day.

Okay, now it's your turn.

What do you think?

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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The Weekend

I just KNOW you're dying to hear about my weekend.

My life is SO exciting like that!

Remember last Friday when I said how badly I needed rest and recuperation time?

Well, that didn't happen.

In fact, the whole weekend ended up being a blur of … blurriness.

My son and his girlfriend went to their homecoming football game Friday night.  

The next day …


They went to their homecoming dance.


First love is very cute.


From a parent's perspective all the activities meant nonstop a lot of driving around all weekend.  There was also the standard parent photo opp which seemed to go on for hours.

The next day I got an email from some of the kids saying, "You are a phenominal [sic] photographer!"

It made me smile.

And then, there was the After Party.

(For those of you who are new to life with teens, the After Party is what happens after the big dances.)  

The After Party was at our house.

I'm not quite sure how I got suckered into the After Party, but I guess I should be glad my son and his friends were at our house where I could keep an eye on them.

It was rainy and drizzly on Sunday. 

I ended up spending the afternoon hosting a teen birthday party for someone who is not my teen.  No, I didn't volunteer to host it … people just started showing up and it turned into another teen party.



Not a chance …

But I did make soup while my house was filled with chaos and teenagers.

I was excited, because it was an excuse to use my immersion blender.  I haven't needed to use it for a few months.  

(We all know how much I like vibrating, whirling toys, right?)

I made butternut squash soup with just a touch of cayenne in it to add a little kick.

Except … 

I may have accidentally spilled a bottle of little extra cayenne in by accident.


Pass the water please …


Always measure out your spices over the sink instead of over the pot in case you spill.

Your welcome!

The End ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Fall Colors?


The trees here don't turn colors in the fall, but Orange County is still pretty in its own, spectacular, way.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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The Golden Hour

Those of us who are West Coast Beach Rats, refer to the hour before sunset as The Golden Hour at the beach.  

Given the right weather conditions, the beach just GLOWS.

I was thrilled to capture a glimpse of it with nothing but my pocket camera on me.


(PR and Nike playing paddle ball … a long standing tradition they've had since PR was just a toddler.)

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Hitting The Wall


For about 24 hours after my surgery, I rested.  Then I told myself, "You've been through worse," and I forced myself to get on with my life.  Part of the reason I did so, was because Briefcase has been out of town for the last two weeks.  When there's no one else to get things done, you find a way to do them one way or the other.

My energy has been lagging a little, but overall I've done great.  (Um, except for the fact that I haven't done any cooking so my son and I have been eating horribly.  It's hard to cook with one arm for the first few weeks after surgery.)

Yesterday, however, it was as if a ton of bricks landed in my path.  My body just stopped.

I guess the six to seven hours of sleep I've been averaging each night was not enough post-surgery.  Either that, or the elevated pain level just zapped my energy.

Pain does that.  It has the ability to just suck the life out of you.

Anyway, I slept.

And slept.

And I missed my son's high school Back to School Night because I slept some more.

(I should feel more guilty about that than I do, but he's in high school, not elementary school, so I'm pretty sure I know the routine by now.)

The whole day made me feel pretty old and decrepit.

I realized I need to take much better care of myself for the next couple weeks so my body will be recovered and strong for the next, much bigger, surgery.  Have I mentioned how much I'm dreading it?  Ugh!

This weekend I'm going to rest, make sure to eat healthy, get some light exercise (I'm still really sore from the surgery so I won't be taking on anything too strenuous), and feed my soul by spending some time by the ocean.

What are your plans?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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The 21st Miner

I assume most of you have watched, along with the rest of the world, as the thirty three trapped Chilean miners were rescued from 2,300 feet beneath the ground.

Before The Haters jump in and start telling me I'm a shitty person for writing this post, I'd like to say I was riveted by the story of the miners from start to finish.  I was absolutely thrilled with the rescue of the men.

It was emotional, amazing and just incredible.

Yesterday, a lot of publicity was focused on the fate of Yonni Barrios who was the 21st miner to be rescued from the collapsed mine.

Yonni, as you probably already know, was greeted by his mistress when he emerged from the mine.  As it turns out, Yonni was not the only miner to have both a wife and a mistress, but his story became the most public.

Marta, Yonni's wife of 28 years, just recently discovered he had a mistress.  Prior to the 69 days he was trapped, she had no idea.  After learning of Yonni's indiscretion, Marta chose not to be there to greet Yonni when he popped his shaft out of the shaft.


There is just SO much material here …

Trapped for 69 days.

The mistress (instead of the wife) was waiting for him at the end of his shaft …

Stuff like this is irresistible to my warped sense of humor.

Susana, Yonni's mistress, has apparently been having a relationship with him for over five years.  She greeted him with sobs, kisses, and hugs.  

Yonni seemed a little uncomfortable during her display of emotion.

The greeting by his mistress, with cameras zooming in to capture every moment, seemed a little awkward.

Yonni probably knew his wife was at home watching the exchange on television.

It must be a little strange and uncomfortable for Yonni to have his illicit extramarital affair revealed to the entire world.

Go figure ….

Now, I personally don't care how Yonni chooses to live his life.

Who am I to judge?

I know very little about Yonni, his wife, his mistress, or his life.

I've experienced enough of life to realize not all situations are black and white.

I also wouldn't pretend to know the slightest thing about Yonni's particular love triangle.

I do, however, know Yonni was allowed to choose three people to be present to greet him when he emerged from the mine.

He invited BOTH his wife and his mistress.  

Really, Yonni?


I'm wondering how Yonni expected that to work out?

Who was he going to hug and kiss first?

Apparently his wife, although upset upon learning of his mistress, had initially planned to be there to greet him upon his rescue.  That is – until she found out he had also asked his mistress to be there.  At that point, Marta pretty much told Yonni to fuck off.

My bet is, now that Marta has left Yonni – he'll want her back.

It seems to be human nature to want what we can't have.  If Susana had been the one to tell Yonni to fuck off, he'd probably chase after her.

It isn't easy to love two people at the same time.

Yonni's story made me think.

I thought about what I would do if I were Marta.  I thought about what I would do if I were Susana.  I wondered how often affairs are discovered when one of the involved parties becomes ill, involved in an accident or tragedy, or dies.  

I bet it's actually a pretty common phenomenon …

I also thought about Yonni.  I tried to imagine being him.

I tried to imagine …

And yet, I couldn't.

He asked both his mistress and his wife (who had just found out about his mistress) to come and rejoice together at his rescue.

It's hard for me to imagine being that stoopid.

Clearly, the man must have been oxygen deprived down in the mine.

So tell me, do you think I'm way off base?

What are your thoughts on the situation?

What would you do if you were Marta, Susana or Yonni?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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The Big Nipple Debate

I readily admit, I was a little stressed during the two days preceding my surgery last week. 

My mind was racing.  I had very little notice regarding the timing of the surgery.  I had a lot to do and a short amount of time to get it done.  When I wasn't thinking about my "to do" list, I tried to ease my surgery anxiety by visualizing what the experience would be like.  I've been through so many surgeries since the car accident, I began going through a mental checklist of what things would be similar or dissimilar about this particular experience.

Two nights before my surgery, it occurred to me – putting electrodes on both the front and back of my shoulder and arm would mean being completely uncovered for Dr. Painless.

"I won't have a hospital gown covering my upper body," I realized suddenly.

This realization came to me as a bit of a shock and I felt my cheeks flush in embarrassment. 

I'm not shy about my body and I've had my share of accidental flashing incidents over the years, but this …

This felt different.

I see Dr. Painless on a regular basis.  He wears designer suits and fancy ties.  He's a big shot, world-famous, doctor.  Somehow, his "normal" day-to-day formality made the thought of being topless in front of him even more awkward.

I began airing my anxiety-ridden thoughts to Twitter.

I asked my friends on Twitter if they thought heterosexual male doctors "peeked" at women's nipples given the opportunity to do so during surgery.  I mused that maybe I should draw a smiley face around my right nipple to find out.  (My right arm/shoulder being the one to be operated on.)  If the doc began laughing, or commented, I'd know his eyes had wandered off track.

Then I re-framed my thought and asked Twitter if there were any male surgeons following me, and if so, would they be willing to answer honestly whether or not they "check out" the breasts of their female patients during surgery.

It didn't take long until I got a direct (private) message from a male surgeon in the midwest.  Now, I happen to "know" this particular person and I know he is, in fact, a doctor.  What I'm saying is, for reasons I won't go into right now, I know this is a person I can trust to be honest with me.

His answer?

Yes.  If the opportunity is available, doctors "take a peek."

First of all, I really appreciated this particular person trusting me enough to be honest with me.

Second, I was shocked by his answer although I don't really know why.  

"Looking" is human nature, isn't it?  My Twitter friend wasn't saying doctors "do" anything inappropriate, he just acknowledged if a heterosexual male doctor has a female's breast right in front of him – he's probably going to take a "peek" at it.

I decided I should, in fact, draw a smiley face on my nipple to test out my theory.

Twitter egged me on, of course.  I even had people offering to pay me money simply to draw a face on my right areola/nipple area.  I had visions of a perfect smiley face on my nipple and hearing Dr. Painless burst out laughing mid-surgery.

"Busted for looking!" I imagined myself saying.

I began pondering the merits of the smiley face.  Should it be looking up at the doctor as he worked on my shoulder?  Or should it be facing straight ahead?

Of course, at some point I realized I'd be sedated and miss the surprised look on Dr. Painless's face when he saw my nipple smiling at him.  I convinced myself I'd "know" if he'd seen it when I woke up even if I'd been asleep through the entire smiling-nipple encounter.

Are you amazed at the inner workings of my brain yet?

I think, perhaps, I was cracking under pre-surgery stress.

Or something.

The night before my surgery, the topic came up again on Twitter.  People asked me, "Are you going to do it?"

It was then I realized the only markers I had in the house were "permanent, archival quality" markers.  If I drew a smiley face on my nipple, it wouldn't be coming off any time soon.  I might die fifty years from now with a permanent, archival quality, smiley face still on my nipple.

The idea concerned me greatly.

I tweeted my concern, and the dismal lack of "washable" markers in my house.

Twitter friends began giving me other Nipple Decorating Ideas which included suggestions such as glitter, sparkles, rhinestones and little plastic winking eyes.

OK, so maybe the little plastic winking eyes were MY idea.

I thought it would be hilarious to have plastic winking eyes on my smiling nipple watching Dr. Painless perform surgery.

It was right about then, when I sent out the following tweet:

If I'm not going to have a shirt on at all I really should make matching nipple decorations. Otherwise it would just look weird.

(Because matching smiling/decorated nipples are altogether more normal than just having ONE smiling nipple, right?)

I'd like to clarify …

I was not on pain meds when any of this was taking place.

In the end, simply due to a lack of crafting supplies, I did not decorate my nipple or nipples.

I was disappointed, of course, but I knew if the "trial" of the neurostimulator went well, I'd have another opportunity for surgery-nipple-decorating very soon.

As it turns out, there was an unexpectedly large crowd of people in the operating room with me the next day.  I was glad I hadn't decorated my nipple(s) because if I had – at least 10 people, in addition to Dr. Painless, would have been privvy to my decorating skills.

"Whew! I'm glad I didn't make a smiling nipple after all," I thought as the initial pre-surgery drugs began to kick in.

The room began to swirl and whirl.  I felt punchy and lightheaded.

And that's right when it happened …

I looked up at Dr. Painless and smiled through my giddy, drugged up, haze.  

Then I blurted out, "I was going to surprise you with a smiling nipple today but I didn't have the right kind of markers."

His eyebrows raised questioningly, and then …

Everything went dark.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Going Wireless

The trial period with my spinal stimulator ended yesterday.  Layers upon layers of bandages and tape were removed, stitches were snipped, bruises were revealed, and wires were extracted. 

Yes, I'm VERY sore as a result – thank you for asking.

It had to be a relatively short trial because of the high risk of infection when wires are hanging out of a person's body.  Although the implant is not a magic bullet, the positives of the unit definitely outweigh the negatives.  I will be moving forward towards receiving a permanent implant.

I was informed, upfront, the implant would not be a cure-all, but I was disappointed anyway to realize I still had some pain even with the electrodes working.  I did, however, find I was taking way FEWER pain meds and sleeping much better at night.  Dr. Painless explained to me the implant is just one weapon in the arsenal against severe chronic pain.  

Neurostimulation won't increase the function of my arm.  It won't make me completely pain free … it's just a tool, but it's my best hope for a more normal life.  During the trial period I had days when I saw a big improvement and other days when it didn't seem to help as much – probably because I also had some surgical pain in the mix.  Apparently, that is a normal experience and my trial came out with a positive result.

I have to heal for two to three weeks from last week's surgery before they can proceed with the second surgery for the permanent implant.  Receiving a permanent stimulator (giggle- yes, I AM a 12 year old boy!) is a much bigger deal than what I just went through.

I'm dreading the whole ordeal.  

I'm also choosing to block the impending surgery and two month recovery out of my mind until I absolutely have to face it head on.

By the way, during the next surgery I will be getting 24 electrodes put into my arm and shoulder.  


My favorite number!

How ironic is that?

Not fifteen, not twenty five or thirty – but TWENTY FOUR.

And no, I had nothing to do with the decision to implant 24 electrodes into my body.  That decision was made by my doctor.

Although it may not seem to be the case, I've always had trouble writing about The Accident and The Recovery.  I don't want to bore you for one thing.  Also, it never endsthere is no ending to the story.  I didn't know that would be the case a year or two ago, but I've (sort of) accepted the reality of it now.

And yet, I do write about the accident and its horrible aftermath, even when it makes me feel uneasy.

For those of you who merely think I like to ramble on and on about it, I'd like to explain why I continue to write about this topic.

Sure, it's therapeutic for me to vent, but mainly …

It's because of The Letters.

I get emails every single week.


The emails come from people all over the world.  People with disabilities.  People with chronic pain.  People who have suffered so much more than I ever have, and some people who feel embarrassed because they HAVEN'T suffered as much as I have.  Some people suffer from depression or mental illness, some people have physical disabilities, some people are dying from terrible, merciless, diseases ….

They write to me and they share their stories with me.  

Every single letter touches me deeply.

I feel those letters.  I do.  

I'm not an expert in chronic pain.

I'm not an expert in being disabled or coping with a disability.

I do, however, know what it feels like to be isolated by a situation you don't have control over.  I've learned to empathize in an entirely different way now.  

I also know what it means to struggle, to fight, to give up, and to try again.

And again … and again.

The people who write to me?

They understand IT too.

They reach out to me, because they know I understand IT.

I hear, time and time again, about how my writing, the mere act of writing publicly, has helped other people in some small way. 

And so …

I continue to write about whatever I'm going through.

To those of you who think, "Oh God, here she goes again," I apologize.

This blog is a mix of many things.  It's me.  It's Orange County.  It's humor.  It's travel.  It's photography.  It's sadness.  It's laughter.  It's my battles and triumphs.  And yes, it's also pain and the ongoing struggle to overcome obstacles.  

It's me.

I'm not everybody's cup of tea – I realize that.  

And now I've explained why this part of my life is one of the topics I continue to write about.  

It's because of The Letters.

The Accident and The Recovery are not my whole life, and they aren't my whole blog.   

To those of you who write and tell me, "If you'd stop thinking about it and just move on with your life, you'd get better," I say -

I hope you, or someone you love, never walks in my shoes.

It's not an easy path to walk.

I'm not everybody's cup of tea …

But – I'm genuine.

Twenty Four At Heart is me.

© Twenty Four At Heart