Heart Choices: August 2008

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McCain Chooses Sarah Palin as VP Candidate

Who is Sarah Palin? The news confirmed this morning that she will be Senator John McCain's VP running mate on the Republican ticket. I'm avidly reading and watching the news reports to find out more about Sarah Palin.

My first impressions were YES, the first woman in Republican history to be on the ticket. And then my next thoughts were: Is she qualified?

I just finished watching the TV broadcast as John McCain introduced Sarah Palin for the first time as his VP running mate. I felt very emotional as tears welled up in my eyes. I was surprised by them as I'm not one who cries easily. As I listened to her speak, I learned much about this woman.

Sarah Palin is a wife and mother of five children. Wow; five children! She is 44 years old and is a Washington outsider. She comes from a middle class family with parents who were teachers. She was a high school point guard and earned the nickname "Barracuda". She went from being a soccer mom, to serving on the PTA, the city council, mayor of her home town and then elected as the Governor of Alaska. She ran on a platform of reform; to stop wasteful spending. So far, so good.

I loved it when she introduced her family. She spoke with such respect for her husband, Todd. She seemed proud that he was a fisherman and also a production manager in the oil field. He's also a snow mobile racer. They're celebrating their 20th anniversary today. Her eldest son Track is in the US Army and will be deploying to Iraq on September 11th. He wasn't able to be in attendance for obvious reasons but her other four children were introduced as Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. Trig is just a baby and has Down's syndrome.

An article on About.com was forwarded to me this morning by my friend, Laurel. I learned that Sarah and Todd Palin were aware of their baby's condition prior to his birth. The following quote was released by the Palin family after the baby's birth and I found it in the article mentioned.

“Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed.”

This says so much to me; Sarah Palin is pro-life. I think she must be Super Woman and Super Mom too.

She mentioned that it has been 80 years since women gained the right to vote. She went on to honor the two women who made such great strides forward in politics; Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic VP candidate in 1984 and Hillary Clinton. I liked her graciousness in acknowledging other women's accomplishments. Way to go!

Sarah Palin spoke about what's needed in Washington; grit, integrity and a fierce devotion to the common good. She also spoke of having a servant's heart as a leader. One other aspect I like.

Yes, I have much more to learn about her ability to serve in such an important position. I love to read and learn about all of the candidates from both parties. But so far, I believe Senator John McCain made a wise choice. (After all, this blog is about "choices".) There are 18 million voters who are Hillary Clinton supporters. Is it possible that some of them might switch party allegiance? I don't have that answer and will be watching.

In the meantime, happy birthday Senator McCain... and happy anniversary to the Palin's. They all have much to celebrate today!

Choose To Take Charge of Your Heart Health

Coronary heart disease is the single leading cause of death in the US today. According to the American Heart Association, this year 1.2 million Americans will have a first or a recurrent heart attack. About 452,000 of these people will die.

According to the CDC, the cost of heart disease and stroke in the US is projected to be greater than $448 billion in 2008. This figure includes the health care expenses and lost productivity from death and disability.

As our population ages, the economic impact of cardiovascular diseases on our healthcare system will only get worse. Staggering as that sounds, heart disease is largely preventable!

My background includes working as a cardiovascular nurse specialist for more than 20 something years. I have worked with many heart disease patients in a variety of settings. I've seen people's lives impacted by this deadly disease and I spent many hours teaching them how to prevent future problems. And yes, that's actually me in this picture (many moons ago).

Healthcare has changed so much over the years. It seems that doctors are seeing more patients in less time partly due to decreasing reimbursement. A concern for many people is the rising cost of healthcare and whether they will be able to afford health insurance in the future. In this election year, these are concerns that the Presidential candidates must address.

Although I can't solve all of these problems, I believe I can help in some way. The focus of this blog is how your day to day choices will determine what your tomorrows will become. Making healthier choices and sticking with them will positively affect your health, which should decrease your future healthcare costs.

I distributed a survey to patients in a cardiology practice to find out what people were most anxious about regarding their heart health. The overwhelming response was that people were less afraid of dying of a heart attack than they were of surviving one and being left in a condition where they were dependent on others and unable to take care of themselves. They wanted to continue to enjoy the things that brought them pleasure; whether that was work, golf, travel or simply playing with their children or grandchildren. They wanted a good quality of life, no matter how old they were. I can certainly understand and identify with this. I've seen too many people look forward to the "golden years" and retire but find themselves too weak and tired to enjoy life.

I want to write a series of blog posts that address ways to make healthier choices so we can have a healthier tomorrow. A few of the topics I will address include:

  • How to develop habits that promote better health
  • How to motivate yourself to change (and why it's hard)
  • What you need to do to make successful changes

If you struggle in specific areas, I welcome your comments. After all, I want this to be a two way communication tool and not a lecture. Let's make the choice to take better care of ourselves, which impacts body, mind and even spirit.


Do You Like to Read?

I love to read. My love for reading began as a young child. Because I was born with a heart defect that wasn't corrected until I was seven years old, I led a fairly sedentary life up to that point. I learned to enjoy quiet activities like reading and drawing since I wasn't physically able to run and play with other children my age.

I'm thankful that some of my earliest memories consisted of sitting on my mom's lap as she read to me. I loved to look at the pictures and often closed my eyes as I imagined myself in the scene with Alice in Wonderland. I'm so thankful that my love for reading developed in this way. What a great way to bond with a child and instill in them a love for reading. I laughed when my friend sent me this picture of her youngest daughter Karli and her attempts at reading.

Developing a love for reading has so many benefits. Research tells us that readers tend to read better, write better, have a better vocabulary, develop interests in a variety of subjects and are more open to learning and new ideas. Spending time with a child and reading to them is a wonderful way to open them up to a love for reading that will serve them well throughout their life.

As I consider the choices we make that impact our future, reading quality books is a no brainer. Last year, I subscribed to a monthly reading program that I learned about on Chuck Colson's Breakpoint website. Each month you read a different classic and you receive a CD by Dr. Ken Boa who is a wonderful teacher. He tells you about the life of the author and some relevant information about the times the books were written. He includes insights and ways to relate in the current times in which we live. I found it so helpful as many of the classics included books I've always wanted to read such as East of Eden by John Steinbeck and City of God by St. Augustine.

I enjoy reading historical fiction books by Robert Michener or sometimes a lighter book such as Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes. In a moment, I can imagine myself living in Italy. Jan Karon writes wonderful fiction books that allow this city dweller to imagine living in the small town of Mitford as I follow the lovable characters including Father Tim. Books on tape can be a perfect way to have time pass quickly and yet productively on a long road trip.

Books allow us to use our imagination. Instead of always watching television and movies, why not take the time to develop a love for reading? Start with a subject that you have an interest in.

How about you? Do you struggle to sit and read or do you love to spend hours reading? What kinds of books do you enjoy? I'd love to hear about some of your favorites.


Shutterfly Helped Organize Me

I've become a big fan of Shutterfly. The first time I heard about them was several years ago when a friend sent me an email from Shutterfly with an online album of pictures of her newborn baby. I remember thinking how clever that was. If I wanted to order any pictures, I could simply join Shutterfly.

I used to be big into scrapbooking. Whenever I was in the process of putting an album together, all of my supplies that I'd accumulated would be scattered across my guest room. Pictures would be sprawled all over as I began arranging pages in the album, always with clever sayings and borders. I bought magazines and books teaching me how to be more creative in putting my albums together. Of course, I had an assortment of scissors as I cut my pictures into unique shapes. The whole process was quite messy, took lots of time and effort and cost much money. At one point, as my husband surveyed my mess, he suggested I might consider making digital albums. At the time, I had no experience with this and I thought it just wouldn't be the same. So, my disorganization continued for some time.

Well, I've come a long way since then and now I do all of my photo albums online. Shutterfly is my site of choice. I know there are many other wonderful services online but this one has worked well for me. Once I completed my first photo album and saw the final result, I was hooked. The best part of it was there was no mess all over my guest room and I didn't have to destroy my original pictures by cutting them up. I even gave away my scrapbooking supplies to a friend who continues to scrapbook the old fashioned way. I now have extra room for storage where all of those supplies used to be. My life has become more organized because of Shutterfly.

One of my favorite albums was my summer trip to Carmel. The cover reminded me of the beach and I was able to personalize the writings beneath my chosen pictures. I organized each page online using digital pictures or after scanning and uploading my old fashioned pictures. It was quite easy to do and took much less time, expense and mess.

Since family and friends are so important to me, photographs hold such special meaning to me. Whenever I've been asked what I would grab if my house was on fire, my immediate answer is my pictures (and of course, any people). Now I don't have to worry because I have a backup online.

I've also enjoyed making cards for occasions such as birthdays and graduations. The cost is comparable to buying a Hallmark card but this is much more personal since I can choose the picture(s) and write my own saying inside. And it only costs about $3 each. Not bad!

So, if you choose to spend time making photo memories, consider going online. Believe me, it will save you time, energy, money and mess. Being more organized has been one of my goals. So thank you Shutterfly.


Olympic Fever

I love watching the Olympics. I’ve found that watching the Olympic coverage while I’m exercising helps pass the time very quickly and is a great motivator. I was inspired as I watched young athletes go for the gold. Before I knew it, I had already done 45 minutes, worked out my muscles using free weights and was stretching to cool down. Where had the time gone? This is the way to work out; get your mind off the immediate and often difficult challenge.

The athletes had to set their goals and maintain a vigorous and focused schedule in order to achieve them. I'm sure they had to eliminate many distractions so they could stay focused. Keeping your eyes on the prize helps get through times when it would be tempting to give up.

I watch someone like Michael Phelps, who has spent years in training for this moment. The fruit of that training and skill is being seen as he is accumulating many Olympic gold medals for his swimming. What an inspiration!

Although we may not be Olympic athletes, we have each been created with our own unique gifts and abilities. You may be a teacher, a stay at home mom, a business executive or a coach. Whatever it is, are you working to the best of your ability? The Bible says in Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

One of my favorite movies of all time is Chariots of Fire. It takes place during the Paris Olympic games of 1924. Eric Liddell is a runner but he's also a missionary to China. I think the best line in the movie is when he and his sister are discussing his running. She thinks he's wasting his time and talents and that he should be back on the mission field. But Eric gently tells her that he was created to run fast and when he runs he feels God's pleasure.
Every time I hear that line, I get chills. I want to do my best in whatever I'm created and gifted to do. And I want to feel God's pleasure. How about you? Is there something you do well and when you do it, you can almost feel God's pleasure?


Steven Curtis Chapman on Good Morning America

This morning award winning Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman and his family were interviewed at their home in Nashville, Tennessee by Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. The Chapman's adopted daughter Maria died in a tragic accident on May 21 when her brother was backing out of the driveway in the family car.

When I first heard the shocking and sad news, I remember feeling so badly for the family but my heart especially went out to the 17 year old boy Will Franklin. How would he deal with this tragedy and how would this impact his life? It was an accident and he loved his sister. In the interview, Steven related how his uncle told him that he had called out to his son as he was in the car to go to the hospital. He yelled out to Will that he loved him.

The Chapman's are going through their grieving process and they said that it is their steadfast faith that keeps them going. They have many questions but they choose to live by faith despite the questions. They are grieving, forgiving and living. I cried as I listened to Mary Beth Chapman, Steven's wife speak about how she wants her Maria back but that she must go on living for her other children. They both live with the faith and hope that they will see their daughter again, which helps them go forward and live each day.

Steven's latest song is Cinderella and he wrote this as he was putting his daughters to bed one night. He didn't know if he'd be able to sing it after Maria's death but he does and he says it has more meaning for him. He believes he will dance with his daughter again one day.

I was so touched and thankful for a Christian family who was willing to talk about their grieving and their questions, but that their faith in God is the anchor for their life. They've chosen to live each day by faith.

Larry King will be interviewing the Chapman family on Thursday night on CNN.


Purpose in Blogging

Why do people blog? Well, I recently came upon a blog named Pink Ribbon Review. It is written beautifully by Karen Lynch who is a two time breast cancer survivor. She had written a post about Tony Snow's essay prior to his recent death and it touched me. I added a comment in response.

You have to understand that in the world of blogging, we love comments! It not only lets us know that people are reading what we have to say but also that they are responding to it. Blogging is done best when there's a dialogue which is two way. Not just us telling you what we think or feel but you responding back, whether you agree or have a different point of view. In the case of Karen's blog, she is passionate about her subject. When she learned that I blog about heart choices and how our day to day choices impact what our tomorrows become, she thought I might have something to say to her audience. So she graciously invited me to post a guest blog. I was honored to so so, especially since I've had so many friends recently experience breast cancer. So, I thought I'd post a copy of the guest post that I contributed to The Pink Ribbon Review. If anyone reading this has experienced breast cancer, I would encourage you to visit her blog.

The Power of Choice

Life happens. We may be forced to face trials and challenges that we didn’t choose or desire to have any part of. Dealing with cancer, the death of a loved one, a heart attack that we never saw coming, a divorce, betrayal, and hurts and disappointments that leave us questioning why. Why is this happening to me? Why can’t I have a life of happiness, health and prosperity? Why so much pain? What did I ever do to deserve this? Somehow I find it easier to accept that there are consequences to the bad choices I’ve made. I can take responsibility for that. But it’s harder to accept and deal with things that I didn’t bring about, don’t want and wish I didn’t have to deal with.

No matter what I’m dealing with I can exercise my power to choose how I’ll respond. My day to day choices will determine what my tomorrows will become. I have the power to make that choice. Will I remain stuck in anger which often results in a life of bitterness, distorting the lens through which I view life? Or will I choose to embrace the fact that life is challenging? What can I learn from this? How will I choose to respond? That is the better question.

Dr. Viktor Frankl was a famous psychiatrist who wrote a book called “
Man’s Search for Meaning”. He described the horrors he had endured as a prisoner in Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz where he lost many family members. He observed that some prisoners gave up and died quickly while others continued to survive despite the extreme conditions. Although the prison guards had control over their prisoners’ living conditions, they couldn’t take away the individual’s power to choose how to respond and somehow find meaning and hope in the midst of it all.

Dealing with cancer or heart disease actually provides an opportunity for reflection, a moment to consider how to proceed from here. It can give you the power and the courage to say no and focus on what really matters to you. I believe we need to pay attention and balance three aspects of our lives; body, mind and spirit.

My good friend Maria battled breast cancer that included many treatments. I took time to visit her on Long Island, New York. As we sat on the beach where we had spent many summer days in high school, we reminisced about the crazy times of fun and laughter which immediately brought smiles to our faces. Choosing to take moments to enjoy the sunset or listen to the sound of the surf can be so healing. Taking a walk, reading a good book, spending quality time with family and friends, feeling free to share what really matters to you, and relying on your faith, taking time to pray and connect with God who can provide the strength and courage to help you get up each morning, despite the tough times.

I’d love to hear about some of the choices you’ve made that have empowered you to not only survive, but thrive regardless of the personal challenges in life that you’re facing. By being open and sharing the lessons we’ve learned, we can connect and help each other as we learn from one another.

Remember, our day to day choices determine what our tomorrows will become.
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