Posts Tagged ‘health’

I turned the big 5-0 last February.  To answer the inevitable responses to that statement,

No, I have no idea where five decades went. I just know they went really fast.
No, I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

But with certain milestone birthdays come certain “health screening” procedures, whether you feel all grown-up or not.


Monday and yesterday were consumed by one of those procedures. You know, the one where you devote considerable time to NOT eating, and ummmm, “prepping”…which is far worse than the procedure. The procedure itself is fairly unremarkable, because you get sedated, and then you sleep. And sleep and sleep. At least that’s how mine went, and yesterday afternoon involved eating, napping, eating, napping. (Side note, the results were good news – a clean bill of health.)

january-2014 SL magazineAnd now that THAT’s behind me (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), I’m going to make good on making some one-dish wonders highlighted in this month’s Southern Living magazine.

Rarely does one article have multiple dishes that appeal to me, but this one hit the jackpot with three. This week’s menu lineup includes:

1. Tomato-Basil-Spinach Pasta – I’m adding shrimp and some Italian sausage to mine;
2. Paella-style Orzo with Fish and Herbs which is a great use of orzo in my pantry and tilapia in the freezer; and
3. Hammed-up Macaroni and Cheese to use up some of the left-over spiral ham slices from earlier in the week.

I’m pretty hopeful the rest of the week will go better…although that napping was pretty awesome.

Happy cooking,

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I have had an annual mammogram every year since I hit my early forties. They aren’t fun for those of us blessed with smaller amounts of “dense” tissue, and I suspect they aren’t much fun for our better-endowed sisters, either.

Most years, it’s an in-and-out process. A few minutes of discomfort, and then I’m done for another year. Twice I’ve had to go back for more close-up photos. The first time, I escaped with a few more mammogram shots, an ultrasound and a lecture on cutting back on caffeine (which I did), but this year I didn’t get away quite so easily.

Long story short, I had a cluster of micro-calcifications – a little 5 mm speck of irregular shaped deposits that an eagle-eyed radiologist spotted. And that quickly led to a stereotactic biopsy.

And that leads me to this post, for any other woman facing this procedure for the first time.

First off, breathe. It may be something, it may be nothing, but until you know, you don’t know, so try to just breathe and do something to de-stress. (Harder than it sounds, I know.)

Forewarned is forearmed. My so-called “specialist” doctor did a lousy job of prepping me for this procedure. Here’s what I wish I had known:

  1. Have acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) on hand. I’d suggest having a bottle of extra-strength and a bottle of TylenolPM (unless you take something else for sleeping). Take a couple extra-strength with food before the procedure, and plan on taking them for at least a day or two. If you routinely take aspirin, NSAIDs or Ibuprofen-based pain relievers, you should stop several days beforehand, if possible. (They thin the blood, which can lead to other post-procedure complications.)
  2. Unlike most surgical procedures, you should eat beforehand. Eat something light and high in protein, and not sugary, but do eat. Trust me.
  3. Wear a good-fitting sports bra, preferably one that fastens in the front. Make sure there’s enough room for a small icepack and possibly a compression wrap. Plan to wear it for at least 24 hours…longer if you had a lot of bleeding.
  4. Wear comfortable, loose, stretchy clothes. I don’t wear yoga pants except to yoga, but I’m glad I did that day.
  5. When they say “avoid strenuous activity” they really, really mean it. No lifting anything heavier than a fork; no vacuuming or cleaning…really, DO NOTHING. And if they don’t tell you how long to avoid activity, assume they intend it for at least 24 and 48 hours if you can manage to lay low that long. Plan on keeping an ice pack on the area for several hours. (So have a couple extra ice packs on hand, too.)

Had I known those five simple things, it’s likely I would have avoided the egg-size hematoma that is slowly (glaciers melt faster) resorbing, and that necessitated a two-week respite from my running schedule. And may cause distorted tissue on future mammograms.

Yes, this bruise is merely an EXTREMELY minor inconvenience compared to having breast cancer. But had I known those tips:

  • I would have felt far more in control of things while I was waiting for THE call with the diagnosis.
  • I would have taken it easy for two full days, kept the compression and ice packs on the incision. In ignorance, I kept the icepack on for an hour or two and then dove into light activity, and assumed the rising lump was an unavoidable part of the process.
  • I might have had a much faster and less painful recovery time. As it is, I have a deep, hard bruise that will do a slow fade, and MAY be gone by the holidays…or maybe not.

fight like a girlSo if you have been putting off a mammogram, please don’t let my experience scare you. And for heaven’s sake, do not procrastinate. Please. No matter how it turns out, early detection is the best weapon we have right now.

To those who are fighting against breast cancer, I say with all my heart, “you go, girl.” To those whose family members lost their battle, I pray for peace and comfort for you and yours. It may be little comfort, but I do think we will conquer this disease in our lifetime.

Happy Friday,

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I am resolved….

main-calendarYep, it’s that time again.

Resolution time.

New year, new opportunity to renew commitments to myself.  Looking back over the past few years, I realize that my resolutions have focused mainly on self: lose weight, get more organized, spend more time in Bible study.  All are good, wholesome (and hard-to-keep) commitments, but ultimately, every resolve revolves around little ol’ me.  And the longer I live, the longer I realize it’s not about me.

Don’t get me wrong.

This year, I do plan to run, stretch and exercise.  A lot.

And study scripture and pour out my heart to God.  Every day.

And organize a lot more stuff.  Starting with my closet.

But more than that, I resolve to…

  • be a friendly face to more people I meet.  And to be a better friend to those I already count among casual acquaintances and close confidantes.
  • show my faith in action to others.  To live with more integrity. And show more of the grace and mercy I receive when I fail.
  • honor my family with more thoughtful menu choices.
  • honor God in more ways.  And let Him show me those ways.
  • look for opportunities to make our home the most pleasant place for family and friends to gather.  More frequently.
  • spend more time enjoying the company of those I love.  Because time is the one thing we can’t make for ourselves or save up for a rainy day.
  • and to look harder for the good, in those I meet and in whatever situation I find myself in.  Because whether you look for the good or the bad, you will find it.

I heard this quote recently during a sermon, and it seems a fitting way to sum up my resolutions.

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”
–Jonathan Edwards, 1722

So what are you resolved to do this year?  Do share…it increases your odds of following through on them, you know!

Happy 2013,

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By the time June rolls around, spring has given way to summer’s heat and January is just a distant memory.  Cold weather?  I can barely remember what it is to wear shoes and sweaters.  By now, resolutions often ring a faint bell but they are pretty hazy this far away.

This year, I do remember my resolutions and I can still recite them at the drop of a hat, thanks to this monthly check-in.  I am now at the point of accepting some of them as part of my routine, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are ingrained or permanent habits.  (That old saw about it taking 21 days to make or break habits is bogus – it takes far longer to truly make something stick.)

1.  Read my Bible daily.  First half of the month, right on track. Second half, not so much.  I won’t whine or make excuses, it is what it is. But there is now this frequent niggle and nudge inside me to pick it up and read it more days than not.  I’m encouraging that niggly nudge to grow and get stronger.  It’s the same feeling that can get me up and going to the gym before daybreak.

2. Exercise.  At the risk of repeating myself, see #1 above.  First half of the month, definitely on track. Second half, other things took priority.  And I don’t kid myself that gardening burns as many calories as the gym.  I may sweat buckets while dragging the hose and digging weeds, but the exertion level is not the same.  However, I’m okay with my results for the past four weeks; the things that overshadowed my regular routine were important and urgent and are now completed, so no more excuses.  And my weight dropped beneath 120 earlier this month.  It still hovers and flutters around that mark, but we’re headed in the right direction.  Anyone trying to lose a few pounds, take heart.  Changing the way you eat and exercise are key – they don’t always yield dramatic results, but be patient and let them work their slow magic.

3. Prayer life.  It’s not without ceasing but it is regular and more frequent than daily.  I pray for health of friends and family and for many who are near-and-dear to my nearest-and-dearest.  I try to stop and appreciate and give thanks for the abundance of good things that happen every day.  From small mercies to big blessings, all good things come from God and I hope I never forget that or fail to give Him thanks.

4. Cultivating the fruits of the spirit. This one is still an enigma.  I know I set it as a resolution but how can I measure this?  It isn’t like cultivating plants in my garden.  I can see how my plants grow; I can see them mature and bloom and bear fruit.  I know there must be a way to similarly see and measure this growth but in the meantime, I keep praying and studying know the more I do that, the more the fruit will grow.

I hope this month finds everyone thinking back on whatever you resolved to stop or start roughly 150 days ago.  Whether you’re struggling to keep those promises, or struggling to even remember what you promised yourself, there’s no time like today to get started.  And think how great it will feel in December to know you made good on your resolutions in 2012 and see the results of your efforts.

Happy resolving,

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The stuff that weighs me down

“If I could just lose this handful of fat and that handful of jiggle, I’d be happy,” I thought as I showered the other morning.  Just as suddenly as the thought appeared, I recognized it for the elusive, beguiling lie it was.  If I miraculously sculpted off those areas, I’d then focus on some other droopy pooch or flabby spot.

The hard, cold truth hit me.  If I got rid of the areas that bug me most, I’d just be thinner.  Not happy. It was more reminder than epiphany.  I *know* these things, on an intellectual level.  But I grew up hearing (and accepting, on some level), the cynical mantra:

You can never be too rich or too thin.

–Wallis Simpson

(Sidenote:  Who knew it was Wallis Simpson who quipped that?  And my, isn’t she just the right person to epitomize that philosophy?)

I have finally realized the quote is not merely cynical; it’s a big, fat, lie.  Ask any doctor or anyone who has struggled with anorexia or bulimia:  you can be too thin.  As to being too rich?  Solomon, the richest (and arguably wisest) man on record, said it’s all vanity.  Fleeting.  Ephemeral. Here today, gone tomorrow.  There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, but if accumulating more and more wealth is what drives you, you serve a vile, fickle master.

For those who don’t know me well, you might be surprised that my weight is this much of an issue with me.  Even at my heaviest, I looked deceptively healthy, even though my weight was veering toward the clinical definition of “obese” (the curse of being short.)  At my thinnest, I am still at the upper end of where the charts say I should be.  Slender but not skinny.

Do I want to be skinny?  No.  The emaciated “look” idealized among the glitterati of models and celebrities is scary.  But I do understand the relentless pursuit of thin-ness: with every five pounds I’ve lost, I can always find another five pounds I’d like to drop.  (Don’t worry – as often as not, it’s the same five pounds that returned home for a holiday visit.)

So why write this?  It’s about accountability.  My third month resolution check-up is coming up.  I’ve stepped up the exercise regime to include 10-12 miles a week on the elliptical.  I am slowly seeing and feeling the effects; as always, it never happens quickly enough.  And I write this to encourage anyone else struggling with body image or life choices and priorities.  Take heart.  And take steps every day to be better and change your life to be healthier, physically and emotionally. But never forget that happiness is temporary.  It will not come from achieving a certain size or shape or magical number in your bank account.  It will not come from money, or anything that money can buy.  Contentment is the true goal, and it comes from learning to accept and love yourself as an imperfect soul, striving to be better every day that God gives you breath.  And contentment is something that you may need to rediscover rather frequently.

Happy seeking,

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Last week I started a quick countdown of six things I am most thankful for, that begin with the letters of the word “THANKS”.   Last week, I expressed thankfulness for Today, because it is all we can really say we have for certain.  This week, I am thankful for…

I could complain about my creaking knees, tetchy calf muscle or my periodic bouts with asthma and allergies. But truth be told, I have been blessed with an abundance of good health throughout my life.  One of my favorite passages in Isaiah is 40:31 because it offers an encouraging promise to every one of us:
“but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
   they shall walk and not faint.”
There will come a day when all our physical problems and limitations are removed, and we will soar like eagles and run and not grow weary.  If you’ve watched a loved one, whether young or old, suffer with severe health problems, this passage holds hope and promise for them.   Some day, we will all be freed from the pains and aches of this life.

But in the here and now, I hope you’ll exercise your body every chance you get, to the extent you can.  I eat better, I sleep better, I feel better physically and emotionally when I exert myself on a regular basis.

Whatever you can do, do it.
Do it today.  
If you’re sore tomorrow, do it again anyway.
If you’re not sore, good.
Push yourself a little harder, a little faster, a little longer.

For those of you who know me, you know I’m a fan of getting (and staying) fit and healthy.  If you’re blessed with a similar outlook, I hope you’ll encourage someone you care about who isn’t at their healthiest.  (Don’t nag, encourage.)  Take a walk with a friend – a mile is a mile whether you click it off in 10 minutes or 30 minutes.  Don’t wait for the new year to begin a new resolution; give someone the gift of your time, encouragement and support to become healthier now.

Happy, healthy thanks-giving,

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I never knew where this expression came from, but apparently there was a time in America when saloons offered “free” lunch as long as the gun-slinging patrons were buying drinks.  (Back when bars were called saloons, and patrons carried sidearms, I guess.)  But then as now, the expression rings true:  there’s a price to be paid for everything.

There’s also no such thing as “free” time, even though we’ve brought the full force of technology to bear in our attempts to create more discretionary time in our 86,400 seconds of every day.  Cooking and cleaning time has been drastically reduced by the introduction of appliances and “convenience” foods, and I love my washer and dryer, as well as my refrigerator, freezer and stove.  It’s common that they are all going simultaneously, in fact.

But sadly it seems whatever free time we created has been sucked up by other activities: longer office hours, longer commutes, more activities for ourselves and/or our children and more hours spent in front of an electronic screen, whether it’s a computer or television.  (Or for those of us who are multi-taskers, both.  Simultaneously.)

I fear we have made some poor trades in our relentless pursuit of “free” time, starting with cooking.  Or the dearth thereof.  Our grandmothers (and for some of us, our mothers) thought nothing of taking fresh, raw ingredients every day and preparing them into delicious, nourishing food for their family – there were no other options.  Eating out was a rare treat.  Food was never fast, except maybe the occasional grilled cheese sandwich.

Yes, it took time to cook beans or a roast, or to make cornbread or biscuits from scratch.  But whether they recognized it or not, they had the advantage of knowing – and controlling- exactly what they fed their families.  Now many families rely on purchased meals for more dinners than not.  (Let’s face facts: there is nothing happy or healthy about a drive-thru dinner.)  For many families, a home-cooked dinner consists of heating up frozen, canned or boxed prepared “food” full of unpronounceable chemicals and laden with salt and sugar to preserve them.

Time and again, economists have pointed out that foods made from basic staples (dried beans, pasta and rice) and plain vegetables and meats are the most economical food choices, bar none.  It makes sense there’s a price to be paid for the convenience of someone else cleaning, dicing and cooking, even if that “someone” is an assembly line of robots and minimum-wage workers.

The hidden cost is even more insidious – our backsides are bloating and our arteries are clogging, even as our wallets are shrinking.

What is our family’s health worth to us?

I know (I do!!!!) that it’s not easy to choose to spend any of our “free” time preparing food, especially if you view it as a drudgery or chore.  That choice may be harder if you lack confidence and experience.  And even your best efforts may be met with resistance if your family’s palates are hardened through repeated exposure to high doses of fat, salt and sugar, courtesy of processed foods.  That’s a lot of negatives to overcome.

But look at the positives: a gradual shift toward real food is healthier and eases your family’s cash outlay.  Whether they realize or appreciate it now, your children will one day be glad you established a tradition of weeknight family dinners, prepared and eaten at home.  It’s worth it when you find recipes your family likes and their eyes light up when they hear (or smell) a favorite is on the nightly menu.   That seems like more than a fair trade for the investment of some time and effort in the kitchen most evenings.  And who knows, you might find yourself enjoying it more than when you spent that time in other pursuits.

I hope the recipes and ideas I post will help others to take control of their family’s nutrition and finances.  It may not seem natural or easy at first, but anyone can choose to invest some time into weaning their family off convenience foods and introducing real food to their table.  One of my favorite Facebook feeds is LifeHacker, and they recently gave a list of foods that everyone should know how to cook.  It’s a decent list, and if you start with basics like spaghetti sauce and chicken soup, you can slowly fill in with other favorites you and your family like.  Once you’ve established a repertoire of “thumbs-up” recipes, you can look for make/freeze adaptations like once-a-month cooking.  A few hours of prepping and freezing once every few weeks can mean a month of hot, delicious dinners on your table faster than the pizza guy can deliver. Not to mention way cheaper.

Since there’s really no such thing as a free lunch, or free time, let’s choose wisely how we spend our family’s time and money.

Happy cooking,

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