From the Harmony Healthcare Newsletter

Preface: I wrote this a couple weeks ago for the Harmony Healthcare Newsletter. We were so excited about the new office opening up and all the people we’d be able to help. Less than a week ago, tragedy struck and dashed those hopes when my beloved boss, mentor and friend, Dr. Mark Chirila, unexpectedly passed away on Saturday, January 31, 2015. I’ve taken so many lessons away from this and I have countless more coming. Also, I’m incredibly lucky that I got to work alongside such an exceptional human being and feel like I was in exactly the right situation with exactly the right people around me. How many people really get to have that? Lucky me. Truly. I’m so glad I wrote this when he was alive to read it. He told me almost daily how much he valued and appreciated me there. I told him a lot less, because that was a pretty new thing for me. But I’m really glad these weren’t posthumous thoughts. It’s how I felt when he was here. And he knew that. <3

Jacki Keys: Meet Our New Practice Manager

How did I get here? I spent nearly 20 years working in IT. In the mid 90s, I was a transcriptionist at Harding Hospital, a local mental hospital back then. I went from that to being their sole computer support person and spent the next 8 years in tech support at various places, mostly in the healthcare industry. From support, I transitioned into database work and was a DBA (Database Administrator) for about 6 years, then tried to become a programmer, then a user experience designer, and this past September I found myself at Harmony Healthcare just wanting to do whatever I could to help.

Jacki in 2012 on left, 2014 on right

I’d heard Dr. Mark’s name mentioned for years before I finally got myself to his office. Most often I’d hear “he changed my life” or “it was a miracle” mentioned in the same breath. I’d even met him and his amazing wife, Brielle, socially. He’s one of the few people I’d heard unanimously great things about, and I trusted the opinions of those who gave them. But I always thought to myself “I’m not as sick as they were. I’m doing OK. I know more about food than most. I’ll go when I can afford it.” I made really good money as a DBA. When I quit that job and career in January 2012, that changed dramatically, and I’ve struggled to make ends meet since then. I’d never been happier, but money was still a concern.

This past July, the signs pointed to me having Lyme disease. I didn’t go through whatever they do to officially diagnose it, but I had a tell-tale 8″ bulls-eye rash on my thigh and accompanying chronic fatigue and a host of other weirdness going on. The doctor put me on a round of strong antibiotics and Prednisone. Oof. I hadn’t taken antibiotics in years, but knew that Lyme disease was nothing to mess with, so I complied. If only I’d known then what I know now… But that’s always the case in life. You do the best you can with the information you have at the time, and that’s all you really can do!

I felt so messed up after a few days of taking that stuff. But I knew I had to finish it OR ELSE. You don’t just stop taking antibiotics or steroids. That’s when the message to go see Dr. Mark seemed to come from everywhere. This time I listened. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, but I knew I needed to go. And that may well be the best decision I’ve ever made.

My first appointment with him was the most comprehensive wellness experience I’ve ever had. Dr. Mark asked me all sorts of questions to get at the root of what was really going on with me. Over the course of that first meeting, I learned that I didn’t actually have Lyme disease, but rather a collection of symptoms stemming largely from food sensitivities. He was able to show me what my body needed and what it reacted badly to. It was a LOT of information. And there are a lot of things I thought I knew that turned out not to be true. At that first meeting, I wasn’t sure that was really the case, but everything he told me was so accurate that I decided to give changing my diet dramatically and adding whole food supplements a shot.

It’s important to note that he wasn’t advocating for a one-size-fits-all diet. He was telling me what worked specifically for me. He said I should see a real difference within 8 weeks, if I really made those changes. Some people might hear that and think it’s a long time. It’s not. When you’ve been eating things most of your life that you didn’t know your body was sensitive to, 8 weeks is nothing, and boy did I ever see changes!

I still had a few days left of antibiotics and prednisone, and my body needed more recovery and repair work as a result. Even so, within 6 weeks, most of the symptoms I had associated with Lyme disease were gone. As a bonus, my lifelong allergies to dogs, cats and most furry creatures were GONE. Completely gone. There’s a cat that sleeps in my bed now GONE. Dr. Mark hadn’t even mentioned that as a possibility until I said something to him about it. The thing is, it’s different for everybody. But he’s seen that happen many times. It is truly amazing what your body can do when it is no longer under the constant stress of foods that aren’t right for you.

My first appointment was in August, I started work in his office on September 19, 2014. I’ve worked a lot in tech support and customer service, but I had never done anything like this before. He said I was welcome to do as little or as much as I wanted. It would’ve been fine if I wanted to just stay in the office, deal with paperwork, the computers and filing, etc. But I wanted to learn as much as I could about nutrition and how to empower people the way he had empowered me to heal myself. He got me training sessions with our local Standard Process rep on my third day working there, which was a huge vote of confidence. He’s sent me to several such sessions and training workshops since then, and I’ve soaked it all up like a sponge.

It’s crazy when I realize I’ve only been working there for about 4 months. I’ve learned so much and feel so much better! I had my 40th birthday in November and I looked and felt better than I had… I was going to say in 20 years, but really I’ve never looked or felt this good! My energy level is high consistently throughout the day, I don’t have the constant cough, stuffy head, throat clearing I used to, my skin has cleared up so dramatically that most people who’ve known me for years have commented on it. I just feel better, and my changes were almost completely based on changing my diet (for me, part of that was adding some meat back in after many years of being a vegetarian and avoiding the soy and wheat that were my daily staples as a “carbitarian”) and adding Standard Process and Medi-Herb supplements.

Tomorrow is my last day on the Standard Process 21 Day Purification Program with my boyfriend, Shannon. We’ve both experienced an amazing transformation from that as well. I love working at Harmony Healthcare! I fully believe in what we do here. I don’t have to put my morality aside when I come to work the way I did for most of my adult life. It’s an incredible feeling to love what you do for a living. As Practice Manager, I’m figuring new things out every day. And with our new office, there’s a whole other set of new things to explore and grow into! We’re so excited to move into this new space. I hope you’ll come and check it out soon!

Note: Obviously, you can’t come and check out the new office anymore. I just wanted to repost that as it was published originally. If I started changing things, I’d probably change almost everything. That’s a snapshot in time back to Thursday, 1/22/14. It came from a place I can never go back to. And so I move in the direction he’d want me to most… Forward. <3

And to help his family move forward, please donate to his memorial fund to help cover the costs of his medical bills and funeral costs. Even a little means a lot! Thank you!

When I grow up – Part 2

(You don’t need to read Part 1 first, but you can if you like.)

In a month I’ll officially be 40 years old, which I think is great. Since my late 20s, I’ve had mystics tell me that once I approached 40, things in my life would get pretty awesome. I’d really start coming into my own, and apparently that meant something amazing. I have mentioned this to many of my close friends over the years, including my mom. I had no idea what they were talking about until a few months ago. And then stuff started to really change.

I feel like the cycle that began in January 2012 when I quit my job as a DBA without a net came to a close a couple weeks ago. That was a tough cycle for me. I floundered A LOT. I’d catch the scent of something I wanted to do or experience and move toward it, only to find it a mirage that vanished when I got closer. I had several jobs that I initially thought were going to be great for me, but they quickly proved to be a bad fit. I was volunteering a lot of my time, but barely scraping by. I remained fairly positive, but things just weren’t working. I tried to be a Ruby programmer, UX Designer, WordPress site designer, Web Content Manager… So many things in a couple years. And everything was just hard.

I got frustrated and discouraged. With each job, I’d try to figure out what I was doing wrong. “Why can’t I get myself to just DO THE WORK? I can do so many things, so why is this so hard for me? Why can’t I just buckle down and do it?” The answer eluded me, and it was maddening. I leaned a lot on friends and family for financial support. It has been a very uncomfortable time that way, and I’m still working through it. But thanks to my mom and a few amazing friends, I was able to maintain a decent lifestyle throughout.

Later the day I quit my last job that wasn’t working out, I had my first 2-week follow-up appointment with Dr. Mark Chirila at Harmony Healthcare. In two weeks, I was already starting to feel better after making radical changes to my diet and adding in whole food supplements, but that’s another story. After my visit, he made a comment about his office help not being available lately, and how he’d be a lot faster if he wasn’t working alone.

Harmony Healthcare

Without thinking, I said, “I can do office work, and I’m available… nowish.” He said, “You’ve had a rough day, quitting your job and all. I don’t want to push you into anything. Take a week or so to think about it and get back to me.” But while we talked about it, I got the most interesting feeling of deep warmth in my core. And then it moved up into my heart. Something in me knew I needed to work there, and that it would be good. I told Dr. Mark that, and he just smiled at me and said, “I’m glad to hear that. We’ll see what happens in a week or so.”

Then I got back to the business of doing other things. I had recently stepped down from the board of directors of a charity I had spent much of my time and energy on, and felt a lot more free. I still had web work to do for a couple clients that I had unfairly kept on the back-burner, but I felt far more unencumbered than I had in a long time.

I had thought it over. He wanted me to work part-time at a wage I haven’t worked for in probably 20 years. I figured I could help him out part-time, do my web work part-time to make up the difference, and it would all work out.

My first day was Friday, September 19. On my first commute to work, I was stuck in traffic behind an overturned semi with a fuel leak and was about an hour late. No time for training, and there were clients in the office. Hooray!

A couple of them greeted me and hugged me, because I knew them from elsewhere. They were so happy to see me! That was the response I got from several other clients throughout the day as well. I didn’t know what I was doing at all, but Dr. Mark was kind and just pointed me to different tasks. I jumped in and helped as much as I could. We were packed all morning and closed to clients at noon. I wound up being there till around 6pm getting up to speed on as much as I could. The next day was very full and started at 5:30am. I helped a friend get set up at an event and then headed to the office and made it there right when Dr. Mark did.

We had another day of back-to-back clients. I felt better prepared and was taking vital signs for them before they went back to see Dr. Mark. I tried not to be nervous, and did my best. I told people it was only my second day and most of them were surprised. I had picked up a lot very quickly. And it was nice to remember that I can do that.

Once the clients were gone, I had to leave for the next thing. Dr. Mark told me how happy he was to have me there, and how much faster everything had gone with me there to help him out. Every day I have been there, he has shown his gratitude and appreciation for me. Every. Day. I’d go to the moon and back for him if he asked me to, and I’d do it with a smile. I have never felt so valued as an employee.

Monday was my third day, and he gave me my own key to the office and had set up a training session with the Standard Process (supplements) rep from 9–11am. That was a huge vote of confidence! He had asked me how much I wanted to learn and said that it was fine if I just wanted to take care of the office work. But I want to learn as much as I can, so he has given me as many opportunities as possible to learn. In my first month, I’ve had 3 formal training sessions along with all the things he teaches me every day. I’m a fish in water there, and it feels wonderful.

It turned out that I’m not part-time there. I’m full-time. I’m currently consulting as Keys Creative LLC, but I’m very much a part of the team. He’s very well organized, and I’ve been learning his systems and suggesting new ones as I get acclimated. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, which is just figuring out what needs to be done and have the freedom and trust to DO IT.

I no longer feel ineffective, lazy and like I don’t know why I can’t force myself to work. I feel empowered and valued. I’m doing a great job there, and I’m reminded of that often. When I make mistakes, I let him know and do my best to rectify them. I don’t feel ashamed or like I’m doing a bad job or am afraid he’ll fire me or something. We’re a team with strengths and weaknesses that compliment each other well. A couple months into being a client there, and a month into working there, I’m the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And that was before I met my awesome boyfriend a week ago! Some days I wind up working crazy long hours because I just feel so good there that I have a hard time leaving. I’ve worked 12 hours there and then gone on to have a fun night out afterward, because I feel energized after working there. Can you even imagine feeling that way after a long day of work? I sure couldn’t. But it keeps happening!

Things will be hard in your career. But I want to encourage you to think about how you want to feel at your job. That’s what got me here. I wrote about how I wanted to feel, which was effective, efficient, valued and appreciated. I wanted to use all my skills and gifts to help people in whatever way I could do that the best. And so here I am, and that’s exactly how I feel and what I’m doing. The bumpy and winding road I took to get here doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just so happy to be here now. <3

“I was looking for a job and then I found a job,

and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” ~The Smiths

I’m generally a pretty happy person for somebody whose life is often narrated by old Morrissey and The Smiths songs. But this one has played in my head a lot this year. And it was exactly what happened in my most recent foray in the land of the gainfully employed. But more than that, it’s also a form of “Wherever you go, there you are.”

As a people, we focus on problems. We obsess and crank away on them during sleepless nights when we just can’t get a handle on the stuff of the day or our perceived tomorrows. Thoughts along these lines come from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard which I read recently and is awesome. We skip right over most of the good stuff that’s going on and hone in on whatever we perceive to be problematic. It’s how we’re wired. But we don’t have to BE our natural tendencies.

That song kept me in check a lot during my months of unemployment early this year, and then my months where I wasn’t making enough at my job to make ends meet. Of course it was tempting to think “When I get a job making more money, everything will be great.” But I knew that was a lie. The truth is closer to “When I get a job making more money, there will be a few financial concerns that I no longer have while I’m at that job. And that will free me up a bit for other challenges that can emerge once those financial concerns are alleviated.” And that is pretty much what happened.

I was only unemployed for two short weeks between these last two jobs. I visited friends in Cincinnati, we baked some s’more cookies, I came home and got right into my next job. And at this job I made over twice what I did at the previous job. Cha-ching! It was pretty nice to go from not being able to scrape by on my own (thank you Mom and friends who helped me through all that) to being able to pay my bills that had piled up. Within 5 weeks, I was pretty much alright again financially. Still in debt from the previous months, but more financially comfortable than I had been all year.

I had taken a job doing database work again. It was a solution to my problem. I needed to make a bunch of money fast so I could afford my recent trip to California (which was life-changing and deserves its own series of blog posts), and so I could afford to live, basically. And so came this job where there was zero on-call support, which is pretty much unheard of in DBA work, and I got to clock out at 5pm every day. “Sweet! I can do database stuff for 8 hours a day, and then go home and do other stuff and make good money. It’s a reasonable trade-off. I can handle this.”

And I had a stellar attitude about it for the first three weeks or so. And just as I figured they would, the challenges presented themselves once the sting of my financial situation had been sufficiently mitigated. I realized it wasn’t so much 8 hours out of my day. It was more than 11. I spent 9 hours in the building every week day, and 2 hours a day in the car commuting. There was no place to go for lunch that was anywhere near any of my friends, or even a restaurant that was much higher caliber than fast food. I sat in a gray box for 9 hours with people who had been there for years and planned to retire from there. Lifers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not a mentality I relate to well. And to me it was feeling a lot like “doing time” instead of doing a job that I sort of liked and was somewhat good at.

And when I got home from work, I was too exhausted to do anything that required much brain power. I’d watch some TV, read a little and go to bed early. My time socializing went down considerably, too. Doing things much later than 8pm just wasn’t feasible for my getting up at 5:30am schedule. And so I got a bit depressed. I didn’t really know what to do. The trade-off was seeming less reasonable day by day. But I felt like I should at least finish out my contract there. So I kept doing my thing until they let me go last Friday without warning or notice.

And so, the Universe balances itself out. It always does. Of course I was upset and shocked initially. That has never happened to me before. But I wasn’t happy there, and the two days I’ve had so far where I didn’t have to go there have felt like a gift. I don’t feel like I need to scramble to find another job just to get by right now. I want to take some time to regroup and get back in touch with what’s important to me.

I am not my job. I am not my résumé. There is no event I’m waiting for before I can be happy again. No future pie in the sky that I’m just waiting to bite into. I am here and now. I inhale and exhale. Sometimes with purpose, sometimes automatically. Things that happen to me only define me if I choose to allow them to do so.

And so far this week, I’ve made lunch plans on the fly and eaten at places I enjoy with people I like. And sometimes being happy is just that simple. I’m grateful for the times when I recognize that.

When I Grow Up – Part 1

I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I say that often enough. At 37, it might seem like a funny thing to say, but it’s true. It’s always been true.

I remember how I felt as a little kid being asked that question. I’d think, “I don’t know. How could I know that?” And often enough, that’s the actual answer I’d give. My cousin would say she wanted to be a nurse, like her mother. My mom was an elementary school teacher, and I never wanted to do that. Stand up in front of a classroom every day and talk? Try to get a bunch of kids to sit and pay attention to school work when it was the last thing they wanted to do? Be around kids all the time? No, thank you. Not for me.

I remember when I was really little and out with my mom somewhere, I saw somebody typing. I don’t remember who at all. I just remember the sight of their fingers tapping away at the keys, effortlessly. Like those fingers had a mind of their own. How did they know where to go like that? How did the person’s brain work to tell their fingers what to do? They moved so fast and they typed the letters in the right order somehow. And I was fascinated by that. I wanted my fingers to do that.

In fifth grade I bugged my mom enough to let me take a typing class. She let me use her old Smith-Corona. It was a pale turquoise manual typewriter with white keys. It came in a black hard suitcase. A portable model. I couldn’t lift it, but it was portable. And I loved my typing classes. I didn’t really like making pictures out of X’s and such. A 4 leaf clover for St. Patrick’s day, a bunny for Easter… The instructions like “space 4, X 10, space 8, X 19” etc. That was just tedious counting. The pictures were neat at the end, though. I liked learning to type the sentences more. “Mary jumped over the fox and ran around the frozen pond.” Over and over again.

After a few years, I became a decent touch typist. I had no aspirations to be a secretary, so my parents didn’t really get why I wanted to do that so badly. And for me, it was never really more than wanting to make my fingers move like that. I had no larger aspiration at that time. I had no idea that the keyboard would become the doorway to the Internet one day. I just thought typing fast seemed pretty neat and that was it.

Around the same time, I decided I wanted to play the oboe. I had to fight for it as there were already two oboe players in the band and that’s all there could be. I took lessons on my own and petitioned to challenge the current oboists for their chair. Eventually I got it, and I became first chair oboe in the Perry High Symphonic Wind Ensemble, which was the finest band I ever played in. I enjoyed it and that was well and good. I didn’t think about it being what I wanted to do when I grew up, though.

But suddenly it was time for college, and I didn’t really like anything else yet. I wanted to take a year or two off to figure things out, but got pressured into going immediately, and thus became a music major. My high school grades weren’t good, but my test scores and oboe playing got me a couple scholarships and so that’s what I did. And I did it until I found myself not enjoying listening to music anymore. Always trying to figure out the chords, intervals, tonalities and time signatures sucked the fun out of music for me. It took several years before that dissipated and I once again heard music instead of a collection of notes.

Next I worked in the Juniors department at Kaufmann’s at a mall back home. Then I sold carpet there for a year. And after that I went to OSU for design. That was an interesting year. I really applied myself for the first time. I had several classes that were art and drawing-centric. I drew hundreds of chairs in my industrial design classes, shapes with perfect line weights for my Engineering Graphics class… I was so good at my orthographic projection homework, and loved messing around with AutoCad.

I got the best grades of my entire educational career that year. I remember a talk given by a guest speaker for one of my design classes. He was a product designer and brought shower caddy he had designed with him. He talked about the considerations that went into making it. The places for the razors, soap, shampoo bottles, etc. And then he talked about noticing how his wife would turn the bottles over when they were nearly empty and store them upside-down to get the last bit of shampoo or conditioner out. And so he adjusted his design to accommodate an upside-down bottle and keep it from falling over. Again, I was fascinated by this. He had the power to change things and make them work better. I wanted that power, too.

In that, I am a designer. I notice things like that. I appreciate the consideration that went into the design features of most things I come in contact with. Some brands have really impressed me. Like Breville, an Australian company that mostly makes small kitchen appliances. I really love my Breville juicer. It is well designed from top to plug. I once saw a $200 hot tea maker of theirs in action. It was so beautifully designed, I got a little choked up as it brewed me a perfect mug of herbal tea. I’m telling you, it was amazing.

Back to 1997 for a minute. I was at the top of my classes and doing well. I was also working part time as a transcriptionist at Harding Hospital (a full service mental hospital). I was working hard and doing really well. I had signed up for my next semester of classes and was working on my portfolio and getting professor’s recommendations to vie for one of the 14 spots in the Visual Communication Design program. I was between that and Industrial Design. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer and was headed toward Vis Com, though my heart was more into product design.

Anyway, I had a 4am moment of clarity in the thick of it all, and decided that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, my argument felt well-reasoned and justified. I stuck with the transcriptionist gig instead and just went full time at Harding. Looking back now, I am pretty sure I chickened out.

To be continued…