Switching gears can sometimes be a challenge

Published 9:23 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens

As a volunteer writer for the Albert Lea Tribune for many years I have managed to reflect on my decisions, especially from my global travels, and come up with a column about every two months called Creative Connections. I just passed my self-imposed deadline and am experiencing a life jolt — an unexpected surprise, negative or positive, in my life’s unfolding.

Sara Aeikens

Sara Aeikens

The “More To Life” workshops I’ve attended for the last several decades for leadership training, values identification and goal setting call them life shocks.

Email newsletter signup

I talk myself into thinking my prolonged cough is temporary, but decide to visit Albert Lea clinic’s Urgent Care and am funneled over to check my heart rhythm, or in medical terms, an electrocardiogram. Suddenly, I am into the medical system again. Since my bike accident recovery almost four years ago, I’ve taken no drugs (medical or any other kind!), and all at once four different drugs are prescribed to tame my erratic heart that some say is similar to my personality as I use my creative abilities when embarking on an adventure.

On this particular journey, I spend a week in a local hospital with half-dozen wires weaving around my body to various veins, so I couldn’t walk very easily amidst wire tangles except to the bathroom. This stopped my regular daily exercise activities.

The other discouraging and disillusioning task turned out to be ordering healthy meals while in the hospital. Colorful red hearts helped me identify what foods on the menu I could be assured would encourage my heart to heal. They were strict about not allowing salt on the heart-healthy diet and it helped me to retain less water. After I snarfed up a heart-healthy ice cream, I noticed the word aspartame on the ingredients and found it’s also in the waffle syrup. I recently heard Coca Cola plans to remove aspartame as a sugar substitute from their diet soft drinks.

I attended a weekend workshop at St. Olaf’s College by neurosurgeon and author Dr. Russell Blaylock. Because of his research he emphasized adamantly that other sugar substitutes were more beneficial for nutritional health. Author Dr. Lendon Smith, in a health and wellness lecture in Albert Lea, reached a similar conclusion about aspartame usage.

At home, in my cozy pink recliner with feet elevated, I reflect on how life can change so abruptly. I decide to visit a local chiropractor, plus a homeopathic doctor who gives me a diet that cuts back on sugars and dairy products to help decrease mucus in the body. I can tell the difference after about a week and wished I could consult with all three of the different doctors at the same time.

When my husband and I were finally able to visit a heart specialist we both heard him say to cut the dosage of a daily water loss medication by one half. A week later I had regained the 10 or so pounds of water I’d lost, which meant it became more difficult for me to walk and breathe easily. When we called to checked the doctors’ written order, we had heard just the opposite — another life shock to adjust to. I am losing water weight again and am back on track. The visits, thoughts, flowers and prayers all made a difference. Thank you.

Switching gears to a topic I often think about near Memorial Day in our country, I took more time this year during my recovery to honor and ponder about others, including our servicemen who lost their lives while serving their country. I wonder how many citizens know or think about the 256 United States Peace Corps volunteers killed since the agency began under President Kennedy. I’ve decided I’d like to see a memorial erected in Washington, D.C., in the next decade for this group who also gave their lives to serve us.

A May 28 Star Tribune notice of the death of a Minneapolis 23-year-old man, Robbie Lehman, touched my heart deeply. He lost his life in a bus accident on a road near the city of Mbeya, Tanzania, in the area where he worked as a community health volunteer since he began his Peace Corps service there in February. His mother in the Twin Cities saw this as a continual transforming experience, which is how I’d describe my two years in Venezuela in La Mesa de Ejido rural mountain village as a community service worker about 50 years ago.

While serving from 1964 to 1966, my immediate Peace Corps supervisor lost his life on the main highway between our safe and lofty location and the capitol city of Caracas. I recall his shooting death happened after being pulled out of a car filled with other Peace Corps volunteers traveling to a regional Peace Corps meeting. It occurred because of conflicts not connected with our organization, but between dissatisfied students and the ruling national government at the time.

The shock of this event reverberated through the country’s entire Peace Corps organization. It’s taken me half a century to connect the devoted service of those volunteers giving their lives around the world for the United States with the possibility of a erecting a lasting monument as a reminder they served to fulfill their dream of making a positive difference in the lives of others globally.

This Memorial Day my husband and I drove in a large circle around the perimeter of Freeborn County for the first time. We began close to Silver Lake at a benefit luncheon in a nearby Lutheran church and ended in the Oakland area at a cemetery of another Lutheran church. We engaged in conversations with veterans from both churches near the graves of fellow veterans.

As a Peace Corps volunteer experiencing the loss of a fellow worker serving our country and having extended family members serving in the military, this Memorial Day had a special significance, enhanced by discussions with servicemen about ways to serve our country.

Thinking about those veterans in the three cemeteries we visited helped me reset my priorities and take my focus off my health issues. For my well-being, I resolve to keep connections with my Blue Zones moai group. I know that our Memorial Day interactions with veterans and my Peace Corps experiences gave me encouragement and improved my attitude. I am grateful I am able to switch gears.


Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.