Changing for the Better

While I am very, very glad to see this long, cold, difficult and dusty winter season finally come to an end, I am even happier to see some good things finally happening in my life now, too.

Back in January, I committed to making a real effort to get healthy, specifically by changing my diet and my level of exercise, but not just limited to those items either.  I actually made this decision while on our last camping trip, right before we got Little Red and right before my mother fell and fractured her pelvis.  Despite the difficulty of seeing after Mom’s care and also taking care of a frequently sick puppy for the past few weeks, I managed to stay right on track with my new eating plan and even made it a priority, despite my often irregular daily schedule.  I also walked each week as I could do so, despite the fact that it was not to the level that I really wanted to do at that time.  But given the other things on my plate, it was better than nothing and did help to jump-start my weight loss a bit.

As of today, I am now down 21 pounds over the past twelve weeks, and I am quite thrilled!  It is amazing how much better I feel, and I hope to continue along this same path for several more months to lose weight and also for the rest of my life to keep it off.  I bought a smaller size in jeans last week, and my goal right now is to just continue losing about one pound per week, if possible, for a few more months.  As the weather finally begins to warm up, I am also looking forward to some nice, long walks with the dogs once again, too.

My yearly physical was two weeks ago, and my blood work was great, except for just a couple of things that need some attention.

The two highest health risk factors for me are diabetes and heart disease, based on my family history and my yearly lab work, and the doctor feels that my risk of diabetes is actually much higher than a more immediate risk of heart disease, but she was also very pleased with my weight loss, too.

High cholesterol runs in my father’s side of the family, and while I have kept it at bay longer than most, the doctor thought that it was finally time to get started on Crestor, at least for a while.  It is quite possible that making these healthy changes now will allow me to get off of that med next year, but she was still realistic that the heredity component may not ever go down too much without medication.  I also had a mysterious drop in Vitamin D3 and now have to take a big dose of it each day (10,000 IU) for a month, followed by half of that dose for the next two months.  At that time, I will go back to have the blood test done again, too.

The doctor also recommended a change in my multivitamin and daily supplements.  She asked me to look for a “50 +” women’s formula that had at least 30 ingredients in it to get more supplementation overall, and she also recommended taking some heart-health supplements, along with the temporary mega dose of the D3 over the next three months.

After checking options on multivitamins at several stores, I finally ended up at GNC and decided to try their GNC Women’s Ultra Mega® 50 Plus Vitapaks, at least for the next two months.

GNC Women's Ultra Mega 50 Plus Vitapak

We already have a membership card with GNC, and these were on sale as well, making the total cost only about $1 per day right now and through the end of April.  While I am still checking labels to make sure what else I still need to take each day, it should be minimal.

These convenient vitapaks consist of six different pills and two of them comprise the daily multivitamin.  It also has a much larger amount of D3 than my previous multivitamin.  I suspect that I will also enjoy the convenience of these pre-packaged daily supplements, especially for RV trips and for airplane travel, too.

Overall, I am happy with how I feel right now, and I think it’s only going to get better.  I’ve been over the carb cravings for weeks, and that is also a great feeling.  I still get hungry, but the hunger is nowhere near the level it once was before I started my new eating plan.

Unfortunately, my hubby is a carb-o-holic, and I finally had to make this decision to change my diet for myself and try to work with it the best I could for him.  He is at risk for both heart disease and diabetes, just as I am, so I don’t feel bad about going ahead and making these changes with a few additions for him on occasion to try to keep him happy.  So far, he has been good to go along with the new eating plan and seems content to eat what I fix at mealtimes.  The food is quite tasty most of the time, so that certainly helps.  We also have a few restaurants where we can still dine out and let him indulge in his carb-heavy foods while allowing me to eat on the plan.  Simple carbs and a diet high in carbs overall are just not going to work for me going forward, although I’m sure I will be able to eat them from time to time, if I really want to do so.  For now, our eating arrangement is working just fine, too.

My brother died from Type 2 Diabetes.  I do not want to follow him on that path either, as I have seen all too well the physical devastation it brings.  He endured two amputations and two open heart surgeries before diabetes and congestive heart failure finally took him from us a few years ago at age 63, and I can honestly say that the last ten years of his life were completely horrible.  He never made the necessary life style and diet changes either, all the way to the end of his life, and I still wonder today what kind of life he might have enjoyed if he had made those changes.

My new eating plan will mean preparing some creative camping meals going forward when we travel in the RV, but I’m actually looking forward to that challenge.  I see more fish on the menu, which is great because we both love fish.  For example, I can prepare a quick Tilapia Veracruz using canned Rotel tomatoes and green chiles, a few sliced green olives in a skillet with some seasonings in about fifteen minutes, start to finish, that is very flavorful and very healthy, too.  Add some pre-cooked brown rice in a package that heats in a flash in the microwave for hubby (and for me in the future in later stages of my eating plan), a side salad that I throw together while the fish cooks, and we have a great dinner on the table in no time.  We can each have our own dessert, and I really like several pre-packaged options that are “legal” on my diet now.

Everyone must eventually find their own proper eating plan at this stage of life after 50, I think, in order to stay healthy.  For now, I know what mine needs to be, after consulting with my doctor and some trial and error over the last few years, and I am grateful for that knowledge.  It can be down right frustrating to figure it out at times, too.  Simply counting calories did not work for me, as hard as I tried to do so on some previous occasions.  Staying within a more specific range of good carbs, along with keeping an eye on the calories, has definitely worked well for me.  😉

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Random Thoughts on Aging

As I have spent time daily with my elderly mother over the past couple of months while she has been in skilled nursing to recover from her bad fall back in January, I have had the opportunity to really observe where she is at this point in her life at age 92, almost 93.  It is been very eye-opening for me, and I have given thought to several related topics as we have gone through this time of recovery together.

As the children of our parents, we learn from them throughout our lives, and in the case of my father, I actually learned many things after his death, too, including some that were quite a surprise to me.  We learn things we want to emulate in our lives, and we learn things that we want to avoid or change as well.  Certainly that is true of many people in our lives, but I think our parents have a tremendous influence on us because of who they are in our lives.

Right now, I am particularly aware of how my elderly mother is struggling emotionally with aging.  She has lived with much denial in her life and has for many years now in so many ways, especially since my father died almost fifteen years ago.  It is painful to watch her go through this personal struggle, but she is also very stubborn and resistant to any kind of help.

Watching my mother struggle in this area has convicted me in a big way to examine my own life and my own preparations for aging.  In many ways, I am quite opposite of my mother and very much like my father, who was the stable person in our family and took care of all the business matters.  But in his last few years, he also grew very fearful of aging, even to the point of having some paranoia about it at times.  This is a highly personal thing for all of us, and right now, I do not want to be like either of my parents in this respect, or at least as long as my mind is sound.  This realization has been on my mind for a few weeks now, and I’ve given a lot of thought and prayer to it.

One thing on my heart is just being strong in my faith, above all.  I am not judging my parents, as I believe each of them were/are faithful servants of the Lord.  I just have room for improvement in this area, for sure.  I want to be so strong in my faith that when the serious trials of aging arrive, my faith is as strong as possible, and I am going to start praying regularly now for strength and guidance in those days to come.  Such things as scripture memorization, daily bible study, making good notes in my study bible for future reference and better prayer habits have particularly been on my mind lately.  If I am ever laid up for weeks or months like my mother has been, or if I end up living alone without a good spiritual support system, how I would love (and need) to have my bible with pages and pages of good study notes to help give me comfort.

Bible and Cross
I have two bibles, the red-letter version pictured above that I never make notes in and my tabbed study bible where I keep extensive notes from bible studies

I also purchased my favorite study bible in e-book format, too.  As time permits, I transfer notes from my study bible to my e-bible.  I rely on my bible so much, and having a little redundancy where my beloved bible is concerned gives me some peace of mind.  I have the Kindle e-book version, so whenever I make notes or highlights in my bible on my Kindle, those highlights automatically show up on my phone version, too.  That great feature has already been very handy for me.

Another realization, unfortunately, is to not rely on family members for comfort or assistance.  While I have been there for my mother, sadly, many others that live here close by have not.  Her two grandsons, my sister’s boys that my mother practically raised, have not come by or called her at all since her fall two months ago.  My sister and her husband have only come to see her for lunch on Sundays, as long as I made sure that there were some free meals tickets for them to use.  This has been particularly troubling for my mother and has only added to her unease during this time, as this is almost the exact opposite of who she has been most of her life.  I do what I can for her and make sure that she is well cared for, but I cannot make others do the right thing where she is concerned.  I don’t guess any of us will know for sure how our family members will respond until such a time comes in our lives either.  For me, though, I think the important thing to realize is that I have no control over what others choose to do or not to do, now or in the future, including my own children.  I need to not grow old with unrealistic (or possibly even realistic) expectations of others.  I need to also access my own personal situation later on to see if I need to look at other people or ways to help provide for my care, too.  That is a sad reality, but unfortunately, it is very real today.  I will save my rant on how narcissistic and selfish our society is becoming and pray earnestly that I resist that temptation each and every day myself.

On a related note, this article came across my Facebook feed recently, and it is a great read.  I will also say that this is also a good read for grandparents concerning their grandchildren.  If I am ever so blessed as to have grandchildren, may God help me to keep this in mind.  9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids

I am slowly collecting a large library of e-books for future reading, too.  I love to read, and I hope to continue reading all of my life.  Reading brings much joy to my life, and I love to read several different genres.  That is making a bet, of sorts, that e-readers will be around for a while, but I think that is a fairly safe bet at this time.  I follow some sites that share free and discounted books, and I am truly amazed at how many books I now have that I would dearly love to read, as well as how little money I have spent on them overall.  Many have been totally free, and others have been discounted to just $2 – $4 in many instances.

One other thing to think about is when to move into a group living facility.  In hindsight, I can say for sure that my mother moved out of her home too early.  She was in good health and still drove her car for several years afterward, but moving out of her beloved home to a place with no kitchen was a mistake at that time.  She had unrealistic expectations of moving into a luxury apartment where she would eat gourmet food for every meal and have people wait on her hand and foot.  It was not to be.  Her house sold right away, so there was no place for her to move back to.  She gets extremely frustrated with frequent management changes, as she thinks unrealistically of them as “family.”  She feels abandoned when people move on to other places.  Group living also has its own set of concerns, such as the frequent spread of diseases which is not discussed nearly enough in my opinion.  It is much like moving onto a cruise ship, but the cruise ships we have been on had much more concern for the prevention of the spread of diseases than either of the group homes where my mother has lived.  She got extremely sick from a norovirus at her previous group home and spent over a week in the hospital because of it.  The cost of group living also increases every single year, too, and despite my warnings of this fact, she did not fully grasp this reality going into it.  So, for me, delaying a move to a group home and preparing to live in my own home a little longer is something to definitely think about and plan for.

I recently read a quote from Max Lucado that helped me to know that this is a good topic to ponder in many respects, at least for me at this time.

“Growing old can be dangerous.  The trail is treacherous and the pitfalls are many.  One is wise to be prepared.  You know it’s coming.  It’s not like God kept the process a secret.  It’s not like you are blazing a trail as you grow older.  It’s not as if no one has ever done it before.  Look around you.  You have ample opportunity to prepare and ample case studies to consider.  If growing old catches you by surprise, don’t blame God.  He gave you plenty of warning.  He also gave you plenty of advice.”
— “Abundant Life” – Lucado Devotional Bible, NCV – Max Lucado

None of us can predict the future, for sure, but we are wise to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider what it may hold for us.  One thing I know is that I want to try my best to fight the good fight all the way to the end.  With God’s help, may it be so.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” — 2 Timothy 4:7

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“Weathering” the Haboob

Last evening, we had what my beloved grandmother would have likely called a “doosey” of a sandstorm hit our area.  We had plenty of advance warning that the high winds would hit at that time, more than 24 hours actually.  So, it came as no surprise, except for how dramatic it would be as it hit just before sunset.

These days, these types of storms are now called “haboobs.”  They roll in on the ground as a huge wall of dirt and usually obliterate the sun for a while when they hit during the daytime.  They are dramatic enough when they hit during the daytime and make you feel like the apocalypse has finally hit, but last night, it hit right before sunset.  I went to gas up the car about twenty minutes before it hit and noticed that the wall of dust was very prominent in the northwest and headed right into the beautiful sunset.  So, I did something pretty unusual, for me at least.  After I finished getting gas, I drove to the west to get a clearer view of this unusual sight, racing to see it directly on the horizon and hopefully get a good picture of it before the sun went down.

I barely made it in time to get the photo.

Haboob at Sunset
Haboob at Sunset

The haboob was moving faster than I first thought.  It was headed from north to south, right to left in the picture, and directly in front of the sunset at left.  By the time I got to my favorite place to take sunset photos, the haboob was pretty much upon me.  As I took this picture, the dust was already starting to kick up a bit, so I took the shot very quickly with my cell phone camera out the driver’s window of the car.  After I took the photo, I quickly rolled the window up and began to turn the car around to head home.  By the time I turned the car around, the wall of dust had rolled in, and it was as dark as midnight with the winds blowing between 50 and 60 mph.

Back in June, I took the photo below as a haboob hit during the daytime.  Yes, that was during daylight hours.  Hubby was driving near our home and I was riding in the front passenger seat.  As bad as that one was, I think the one last night was worse, based on how far I could *not* see in front of the car.

Haboob - June 2013
Haboob – June 2013

I knew what to expect last night as I drove out to see this unique sight, as this was not my first rodeo haboob, but I don’t mind saying that the first part of the drive back home was a little dicey.  I was out in an area of wide open fields, which only helped to kick up more dust around my car.  Even with the headlights on, I could only see a short distance in front of the car.  So, I just took it slowly all the way home, collecting three big tumbleweeds on the front grill of my car in route.

I only wish that I had taken the photo with my good camera, but heading out to get this photo was not something that I had planned when I first went to get gas for the car.  A cell camera is better than nothing, though, especially at times like this.

There are a few things that I do inside the house when a sandstorm hits.  The relative humidity is basically zero, so I run our little portable indoor evaporative air conditioner inside for a while during a haboob and afterwards while the dust lingers in the air.  It is a little unit on wheels that we can move from room to room in the house, and it really helps to make the inside environment more tolerable by adding some moisture to the air.  We try to avoid running our refrigerated air conditioner during haboob, if possible, too.  I also light a couple of scented candles to help cover up the dust smell, because no matter how well-built a house is, there is just no keeping the nasty dust smell out during a haboob.  Fortunately, these simple steps help to make the indoor environment more tolerable until the dust subsides.

This haboob was a “doosey” because the wind continued well into the night last night, rattling windows and shaking the trees.  I plugged in my earbuds and just fell asleep to a good audiobook, rather than listening to all that commotion.

Thankfully, the sun is shining brightly this morning, and the dust has finally settled… literally!  🙂

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Dear Winter. Please Leave.

This winter season just needs to go away.  This pretty much sums it up for me, too.

While we have certainly enjoyed having our new puppy around over the past couple of months, I must honestly say that he is about the only thing I’ve truly enjoyed during this extremely bi-polar winter weather season.  The temperature has bounced from spring/summer temps to deep winter weather all too often this season, more than normal to my recollection.  Just this past weekend, it was 85 degrees on Saturday afternoon.  About twelve hours later, it was 19 degrees and later was a whopping 9 degrees with wind chills below zero.

That. Is. Ridiculous.

The only redeeming part of all of this crazy weather has been some truly amazing sunrises and sunsets.  I took this photo recently one morning in our backyard, and I did not edit it in any way, except to downsize it and add the frame.  It was just an amazing sight, and the gorgeous colors stretched all over the eastern sky.

Winter Sunrise
A gorgeous winter sunrise

What has made this particular winter season so hard is the big swings in our weather in very short time periods, often less than 24 hours.  We enjoy our days of warm weather for a day or two, and we begin to think that winter is just about done, only to get blasted by the frigid cold once again that lingers on for a while.  And while that pattern is really not too unusual for our area in the winter, these huge swings in temperature are just more extreme than normal this year, I think.  And to top it off, we really have not had any moisture to speak of to help offset our continuing drought.  Sigh.

I know that I will be “eating my words” as the summer heat returns later this year, but for now, I must say that I am ready for winter to just be done for this year.

But even more than that, I am ready for my normal life to return again.  I’ve had quite the time with my mother while she has been in rehab over the past few weeks, and it has been anything but easy for both my mother and for me.  Thankfully, she is slowly starting to level out in several respects, but it has definitely taken a toll on me.  So, for that reason, I decided over the weekend that I need to start getting back to a more normal routine again, as my own “house” needs attention in many ways, both physically and emotionally.  I’m glad that I have been able to be there for her over the past few weeks, but it’s now time to cut back on visits a bit and get my own life back in order.

Hopefully, hubby and I will be able to take a long weekend trip in the RV sometime in March, but we will definitely just have to see how things go with both my mother and this crazy, crazy weather over the next few weeks.  In the meantime, I’m getting my housework caught up, and we are also going to paint the walls in the kitchen of the RV.  There really is not much wall space in the kitchen anyway, and we are going to install a pretty copper backsplash over part of it, too.  Hopefully that little project will be done in the next few days.  Here is a picture of the one we purchased.

Copper Backsplash
Copper Backsplash by Fasade, $20 at Lowe’s Home Improvement

We are also getting a new tree for our backyard, hopefully later this week.  Getting a new tree is no small or cheap thing here, and I am really looking forward to getting it.  It will have to be brought in and lifted over our back fence with a crane, which should be quite a sight to see!

I’ve missed the opportunity to visit my fellow bloggers here over the past couple of weeks and hope to find time to do that very soon.

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