Heart Choices: October 2008

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Thankful Thursday - Words of Comfort

October is breast cancer awareness month. As far as I knew, there had been no history of breast cancer in my family ...until my aunt was diagnosed this past month. She had her surgery less than two weeks ago and thankfully is doing well and recuperating nicely.

I spoke with her yesterday and she shared the words to a song written by Gloria Gaither that had provided such comfort to her.

When I saw what lay before me, Lord, I cried, what will I do?
I thought He would just remove it, but He gently led me through.
Without fire there's no refining; without pain, no relief.
Without flood there's no rescue; without testing, no belief.
Through the fire, through the flood; through the water,
Through the blood, through the dry and barren places,
Through life's dense and maddening mazes;
Through the pain and through the glory,
"Through" will always tell the story of a God
Whose power and mercy will not fail to take us through.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for words of comfort. They may come through the lyrics of a song, a poem or a story. They may be words of comfort offered by a friend. Or the words of a Psalm. Or a prayer.

It can be hard to understand all of the "whys" in life. Despite our personal struggles and challenges in life, we can make the choice to focus on what we are thankful for.

What about you? Is there a song, a poem or a verse that provides you with comfort?

And don't forget to visit Iris' Thankful Thursday blog for more opportunities to visit other thankful blogs today.


Save Money on Exercise Equipment

Have you spent money on exercise equipment and then hardly ever used it? The stationary bike that you were going to use every day… now sits accumulating dust.

How about those infomercials that entice you to buy the exercise DVDs, promising to get you in the best shape? I’ve picked up my phone or ordered them online many times. Check out the evidence in this picture.

Now, I’m not saying that if you use them, they won’t work …because they do work. But the problem is; you have to use them.

Take a look at my garage. I have a mountain bike, an electric bike (I used to use this in Flagstaff when I had a hard time keeping up with Greg on the hills), and a regular 10 speed bike. I hardly ever use any of them now.

I hate to even mention the inline skates that are in the storage cabinet. I did roller blade for a time ... but haven’t done that type of exercise in quite a while.

My snow skis are also stored away. I think the last time I went skiing was on my honeymoon and that was 24 years ago!

I’ve found that the majority of the time I stick with two types of exercise. My treadmill is my standby. It makes no difference what the weather is like outside. I have no excuses because it’s convenient and I can distract myself by watching TV. (If you look closely at the TV screen, you’ll see I’m watching the cable Fox News channel.)

My other favorite exercise is hiking. However, I can’t hike in Phoenix all year round. The summer is too hot, unless I get outside at 4 in the morning and then it’s too dark. But during our mild winters, I love to get outdoors and hike.

So, what’s my point?

Don’t spend a bunch of money on exercise equipment you’ll never use.
  • Try a dance class first before signing up for a year.

  • Share your exercise videos with your friends to try them out first.

  • If you think biking will become your passion, buy a used bike so you can test the waters before spending lots of money on a more equipped model.

Come on, I know you must have some stories of your own. What's collecting dust in your house? Or was there some exercise equipment that you purchased and are using on a consistent basis?


Don't Give Up!

Giving up is not an option. I want to learn that lesson ... and I want to learn it well so I don't forget.

Last week, I had a slight injury. I fell down the stairs. Or I should say ... I slipped down the stairs. My husband Greg is always warning me to hold the rail because he sees how I tend to move quickly and I'm usually doing several things at once. Like carrying things with both hands and not holding the railing. I've had a few near slips but this time ...I did it. I landed on my bottom and my camera and papers went flying. My elbow, leg and groin were hurting, along with my pride.

Take a look at these stairs. They are wood and very hard!

I learned several valuable lessons through this ordeal. Because I had to take a few days off from my regular exercise routine, I realized how easy it would be to ... just not do it. After all, exercising takes time and energy and when I took a break I had more time for other things.

Although I'm pretty consistent and have developed exercise as a habit, I don't want to take this for granted. It really is a daily choice.

The other lesson I learned is to hold the rail.

How about you? Have you made exercise a choice in your life? Have you had to come back after an injury and found it hard? I'd love to hear from you.

World Series Baseball

It's the Tampa Bay Rays versus the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series this year. I'm excited about this series for several reasons.

My dad is a huge sports fan and he's so excited! He watches every game and reads the sports section of the St. Pete Times every single day.

When the Arizona Diamondbacks were in the World Series back in 2001, my dad was just as excited as those of us living in Phoenix. And it was something we could share together, even long distance. He would call me during half time to discuss the plays. I loved that he cared enough to be so interested. And he was so excited when they won, even though we're originally from New York (sorry Yankee fans).

I remember it was such an exciting time for Phoenix as the whole city seemed to become friendlier. Everybody was talking about the Diamondbacks. I'm sure that's the way it is in Florida now. An interesting tidbit is that Clearwater is the host for the spring training for the Philadelphia Phillies. I know my dad has attended many of their games at the stadium that is close to his house. But make no mistake, I know who he is cheering for!

My brother and sister live in Florida too... so the whole family is cheering for the Rays.

Can you see my niece Kristin's Rays T-shirt? I heard she got to go to the first game of the series at the stadium in St. Pete. Way to go! Here she is with her new friend Kevin.

Why post about baseball on Heart Choices? Well, I think having fun is good for the heart. I also believe that taking time to share the interests of loved ones helps you bond closer together.

My dad's wife Shari told me that she has learned to love baseball... because she loves my dad. Since it's so important to him, she wanted to be a part of that. I think that's a pretty smart choice to make, especially since I know my dad so well.

So, Greg and I will be cheering on the Rays. I think some of my bloggy buddies live in Florida too ...so do I really have a choice? GO RAYS!

Wellsphere Health Blogger

Wellsphere is a new online resource where you can go for answers to your health questions. After visiting my Heart Choices blog, Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge contacted me and invited me to participate as a featured blogger in their Heart Health Community. Dr. Rutledge taught and practiced Internal and Emergency Medicine for over 25 years at Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools and is currently the Health Information Officer at Wellsphere. Well, I was honored ... and so I proudly and humbly accepted his invitation to be a part of the Wellsphere community.


Heart Choices will continue to be focused on body, mind and spirit... and how our day to day choices determine what our tomorrows will become. The blog isn't moving but some of the posts will be included in the Wellsphere community.

Wellsphere has compiled a video of some of the participating bloggers. The theme is "We Care".

I hope you enjoy the video and that you'll hop over and visit Wellsphere from time to time.

Thankful Thursday - Special Friendship

The Thankful Thursday theme for today is "Who is your Elizabeth?" Iris is the blogger who started Thankful Thursday and she wrote that the inspiration for this week's theme came from a post she read by Joanne at Laced with Grace.

Joanne wrote about women being relational and that when something big happens, we want to share it with a friend. When Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus, she had to share the news. And who did she run to? Elizabeth, her cousin.

I am so blessed with many good friends but if I had to choose one who is my Elizabeth it would have to be...Helen.

I met Helen when I first started going to church, about thirteen years ago. We were in a class that was doing the Henry Blackaby study called "Experiencing God". After that, we went to an Anne Graham Lotz conference together and had time to spend quality time together. It was at that time that we decided to become prayer partners. Although we pray together ... we also have fun together.

Helen and I share many common interests and... a few that we don't. She likes to fish and to go to garage sales. I must confess I haven't done either of those activities with her ...yet.

I'm trying to encourage her with her exercising and she's been walking in the morning...yeah Helen! We both like to eat and find great recipes and garden and offer encouragement to others. At one point, we even made some encouragement baskets and dreamed of having a business that offered some of those services.

We've gone through many highs and lows together. But we were able to share our hearts, to laugh and even to cry together. Helen is my Elizabeth ...and I'm very thankful on this Thursday and every day for her.

So, who is your Elizabeth? Joanne writes that:

"Your Elizabeth should:

Have a steadfast walk with the Lord.

Give Godly counsel in truth and love.
Encourage you in your walk with Jesus.
Encourage you in your marriage.
Be someone whom you desire to learn from.
Pray for you.
Rejoice in your successes.
See your God-given gifts and encourage you to use them.

Your Elizabeth should not:

Gossip with others about things you have shared.
Disrespect your husband or family.
Remind you of past failures, or make fun of your shortcomings.
Pull you away from others.
Discourage you from serving the Lord.
Be in competition with you, or insecure in your achievements."


Increase Brain Power With Exercise

Exercise can help reverse age related brain decline. If you needed one more reason to get motivated to exercise, maybe this will be the one to push you over into acceptance...and just start doing it.

Model of human brain

Professor Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D. conducts research at the Beckham Institute at the University of Illinois and he focuses on changes in brain structure and function that occur as people age. He recently published a study with strong evidence that aerobic exercise can actually reverse mental decline. In a report in The Telegraph, the research actually suggests that the benefits of regular exercise are not only seen in the normal aging process but also for people with Alzheimer's disease.

So, what does this mean?

Aerobic exercise can help increase your brain power? YES!

Gosh, I like that. As I'm getting older, I often hear myself and my friends complain about forgetting things or finding it harder to remember things like "where did I put my keys?"

Hmmm...so if exercise can help my brain, that's a good thing.

What exactly is aerobic exercise anyway? Aerobic exercise simply means a type of exercise that uses is a continuous, rhythmic activity using large groups of muscles for a minimum of twenty minutes (40 minutes is ideal). Some examples include walking, bicycling and rowing. By the way, this is a great way to increase your metabolism... which helps with weight loss.

Professor Kramer writes in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that about six months of physical activity should be sufficient to see an improvement in brain power.

So, what are you waiting for? What's been holding you back from getting started?

Losing Weight

Losing weight seems to be the on the minds...and waistlines of so many people. Even though I am one of those people who has consistently exercised, I still love to cook and eat. And as I get older, it seems to become harder to lose weight.

When I was younger I never seemed to be tempted much by sweets. It's not that I didn't like an occasional chocolate but I just wasn't the kid with candy on my mind and in my mouth. I actually loved apples, can you believe it?

However, it seems that after menopause (dare I mention that word?), I've developed a love affair with some sweets. And the biggest culprit for me are the sugar cookies from Barb's Bakery. I don't mean to tempt you... but who can resist cookies that are so cute? They make all kinds of designs for holidays like cookies in the form of flags or Christmas trees or angels. Gosh, I've got to stop obsessing over something I need to stay away from right now. Because my habit lately has been that when I'm stressed... a cookie from Barb's Bakery tastes so good.

As it goes down, I smile...but then I think about how many calories it contains. I know that once in a while is OK but I've taken to freezing them in individual baggies for future eating. And if it's in the house, I will eventually eat it.

This post is supposed to be about losing weight, right? I need to get back on topic.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that... to lose weight you need to eat less calories than you burn each day.

But if you cut back too much on the calories, your metabolism slows down and besides that... you get hungry! So, if you make the choice to exercise each day that helps to increase your metabolism which helps with weight loss.

I want to share a secret with you...spoil your appetite. A Penn State research study found that eating a salad or soup as a first course can actually decrease the calorie intake by 12%. Now remember not to slather your salad with high calorie dressing. But filling up on the more water rich foods will give you a feeling of fullness and you may be less inclined to eat so much food at each meal. Also remember to eat slow. If you eat too fast you don't realize how full you are and then you've already consumed much too much food.

I want to share a recipe for Gazpacho soup. I found the recipe in Ina Garten's cookbook "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook". If you've ever seen Ina on Food Network TV, you know that she isn't known for her low fat healthy recipes. But her recipe for gazpacho is very healthy and low in calories and it's delicious. During the summer, I keep a container of it in the fridge so instead of eating a sweet or other snack, I have a cup of cold gazpacho. Since I live in Phoenix, I tend to eat it year round and besides that a cold soup is very convenient.

Gazpacho (from Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
Serves 8-10 (I half this recipe)

2 hothouse cucumbers halved and seeded, but not peeled
3 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
8 plum tomotoes
2 red onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice (6 cups)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess! (I don't use the food processor but chop it myself)

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

One note of caution: If you have a history of congestive heart failure or have been told to watch your salt intake, tomato juice is fairly high in sodium.

How about you? Do you have any tips that have worked for you? What foods do you struggle with (like my Barb's Bakery cookies)?


A Walking Adventure

Doing the same exercise every day can get boring. Consider adding some variety, especially on days when you have more time. Even though it continues to be warm in Phoenix, the October mornings are cooler. So, for a change of pace I decided to take a long walk instead of hopping on my treadmill this morning. I brought my camera, along with my ipod and water bottle... and off I went on my adventure.

I decided to cross over to the Arizona Biltmore since the scenery is great!

The entryway

The grounds are picture perfect

Imagine yourself having breakfast with this view

We actually have waterways in Phoenix (well... canals)

Check out this house along the way

I'm enjoying my walking adventure

Who lives in these houses?
Some of my views
Do you think anyone will notice I'm not staying at the hotel? The pool looks very inviting!
I noticed a butterly on this flower, along with a few bees

There is variety along my walking route

Almost home and it's downhill (yeah)

I hope you enjoyed my walking adventure in pictures. How about you? What do you do to add some variety to your exercise routine? I'd love to hear from you.

Interesting: My friend Philip from Cyprus has a blog and he writes about the history of places he visits. He took my pictures and posted a blog about Phoenix, Arizona. Click here to see what he has written.


Joy on This Thankful Thursday

It's Thursday and when I checked Iris' Thankful Thursday blog post, I read that today's topic is "joy".

When I first began to participate in these weekly posts, I didn't realize there was a specific topic we were supposed to blog about. I guess I'm not very good at reading the directions.

When I think of joy, I think of smiling. But, when so much uncertainty is going on in life...I don't always feel like smiling.

Then I remember that joy is different from happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances in life. Joy comes from the inside. It doesn't depend on...

  • The politics of the Presidential election
  • What's happening in the financial markets
  • That your aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer

It comes from knowing who is really in charge...my God and my Lord. I browsed through my Bible's concordance to look up the word "joy" and I was amazed at the number of times it was listed. That is good news!

During my quiet time this morning, I read Psalm 28. Read what verse 7 says:

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."

Since my trust is in Him...I can have joy no matter what. So, I began to smile and to give thanks to Him in song. And no, I can't sing. But I sang "It is Well With My Soul". Did you know that Horatio Spafford wrote this song after the tragic death of four of his daughters? In the midst of heartache and pain...he had joy.

This blog is about Heart Choices and how our day to day choices determine what our tomorrows will become. We often spend so much time taking care of our bodies and minds...but often neglect our spirit.

On this Thankful Thursday, will you make the choice to thank God? And while you're at it, sing a song of praise.

Ways to Deal With Stress

Do you long for a more peaceful and calm life? Do you wish you could escape your responsibilities and take a vacation from your problems?

I smile as I think of the movie "What About Bob?" when Bill Murray's character took a vacation from his problems. Of course, he followed his psychiatrist to his family's vacation destination.

Dealing with ongoing stress is difficult and can have many negative consequences on your health. But what do you do when the financial markets are in crisis or your parents are getting older and have health issues that require your time and energy...but you live in a state on the opposite side of the country? Every time you turn on the TV you hear about a disaster or crisis...and you wonder why you feel so stressed?

What can you do? Do you have choices?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • You are in control of your response to stress: You cannot control all circumstances in life but you can chose how you respond.

  • Don't watch the news before going to bed at night: Dwelling on sensational news accounts does nothing to promote a good night's rest.

  • Start your day with a quiet time even if it's only 10 minutes: By taking that initial time each morning you can choose to focus on what's really important.

  • Do some physical exercise: Exercise helps change your physiology. Your thoughts can have a direct effect on your body. Change the way you move and you can often change your mood. Going for a walk or a hike can be such a great stress reliever.

  • Learn a relaxation technique: Simply taking a few deep breaths can help to relax your body, lower your blood pressure and heart rate. When people are stressed they often breathe more shallow and from their chest. Try to imagine a balloon in your stomach. When you inhale, the balloon fills up. When you exhale, the balloon deflates. When you feel particularly stressed, take a mini-break and take a few breaths.

  • Take stock of your life: Are you spending too much money when your budget has been cut back? Do you overcommit your time when you're already overstretched as it is?

  • Leave the TV off if you're home during the day: It's too easy to waste time with mindless TV watching. You may have intended to watch one show but now several hours have gone by. Media reports can be quite sensational creating more anxiety.

  • Don't panic: Live long enough and you realize that there are cycles to the financial markets. It can be a wake up call to many people who may need to make adjustments in their life and choose to live more wisely for the future.

  • Help someone else: When I realize that other people have problems too, it gets my focus off of myself and puts things in perspective. Helping a neighbor or simply providing a listening ear to a friend may be a way to deal with stress.

  • Laugh: It takes less muscles to smile than to frown. Start using those muscles. Watch reruns of "I Love Lucy". Read some good jokes. Find joy in the simple things in life. And don't take yourself too seriously...learn to laugh.

There will always be challenges in life. Focus on the things you can do something about. A wise friend once told me not to waste time worrying about things that may never happen. If you think back to "what if" situations that you worried about in the past, most of them never happened. So, why waste today on worry? Choose to live your life day by day and sometimes...moment by moment.


Thankful Thursday - Friendship

Thankful Thursday has become a blessing in the midst of these challenging and uncertain times. Making the choice to write on the topic of thankfulness one day a week has been so good for me. When I focus on what I'm thankful for I find myself smiling...instead of frowning and complaining.
"A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:13

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." Proverbs 15:30

Today, I want to focus on the gift of friendship. I remember as a teenager, hearing it said that when you get older if you have more true friends than you have fingers on one hand, you're very fortunate. People change and move on but only a few continue to remain friends. I feel very fortunate to not only have friends that I've known since the second grade but true friends that I've gained more recently.

A true friend comes alongside you and listens. She sometimes tells you what you need to hear...even when you don't want to hear it. She tells you when you have something stuck in your front teeth. She prays for you, weeps with you and laughs with you. I am so grateful for my friends. Here are a few to share with you.

Anna May, me, Susan (in front), Linda and Helen

Jim, me, Barb and Sue

A few of the group of 12

Me and Jean, my forever sister

Terri and me

Pauline and me

Jamie & family in San Antonio

Susie who has been a mentor

Marcia and me

Maria and Debbie

Wow; I'm really grateful for these Thankful Thursdays. I found myself smiling as I was posting a few of my favorite friends. Be sure to visit Iris' blog for more Thankful Thursday posts.

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