A Healthier Me

I saw a new doctor today, and I really liked him. For years, I’ve had various issues, but over this past year, everything seems to be escalating with new problems showing up on a monthly basis. Over the past year, I’ve seen my GP, a cardiologist, an allergist, an ENT, an endocrinologist, and a gastroenterologist. Each one treated me for whatever specific issue I was experiencing within that field. This morning, the new doctor, who I went to see for arthritis, told me that he thinks everything is related. Seriously – everything. From my headaches to my gut issues to my arthritis. He feels confident that I have Chronic Inflammatory Disease and have for most, if not all, of my life; and the thing that trigged all of these major flareups is… you guessed it. My bout with that dreaded virus that just won’t leave us alone.

How I long for the days when I had energy and could eat without worry!

But hopefully those days aren’t far away. You see, here’s the best part about what he told me. He’s planning on treating me for everything. Every ailment, every ache and pain, every headache and stomach upset and endocrine problem because my problem isn’t one thing or one isolated thing. It’s everything as a whole. And you know what, it all makes so much sense to me.

For instance…

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The Real Winner

2020 Joshua 1 9There’s been a lot said about this past weekend’s Super Bowl game with many people talking about the halftime show, the Chiefs first championship in fifty years, and the young quarterback who led his team to an epic comeback. But there is something very special that everyone is overlooking. A true testament to female empowerment, a real victory that should be applauded, and a beautiful triumph of the human spirit. It’s the story about a young woman who is still trying to beat the odds, still struggling, still finding her place in the world, but who is pushing on. 

To tell this story, I’d like to start by telling a story that begins in 2008 with three little girls… Read more

Earning Fs in Life

Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.

Rebecca in MSM Library.jpgFather Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.

What? All Fs?

Yes, he encouraged us to earn Fs in life. Why?

Because… Read more

Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

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Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

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Standing Straight and Reaching New Heights

This marks my third week of going to physical therapy, three weeks of therapy after more than three months of waking up every morning with severe upper back pain. I’ve always known that I have terrible posture, and sitting at my desk for hours at a time, leaning over my computer, certainly doesn’t help. However, I was shocked when I learned that months of pain was due to the deterioration of my trapezius and pectoral muscles because of my bad posture. Who would have thought that poor posture would actually lead to a reduction in the rotation of my shoulder? Alas, that was the diagnosis, and the doctor said it needed to be fixed now before it was too late. However, fixing the problem is somedays more painful than the original aching back muscles, and I know it’s imperative to keep working on it, but sometimes, I just want to give up.

And isn’t that how we often feel about the things that are hard, things that cause pain, things that make us wish there was a magic spell to make everything okay? 

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Our Future is Going Up In Smoke

Warning – this blog will not be pretty. I am angry, and I’m afraid I’m going to take it out on you. For the past several weeks, I’ve had to watch someone I love dearly suffer from a very rare form of dementia. So rare, in fact, that the doctors know very little about it. Here’s one thing they do know: it was caused by white matter, or decay, in the frontal lobe of his brain, and that decay was caused by years of smoking. And because of that, watching the news this week makes me angry. I’m angry with politicians, with government officials, with lobbyists, and with my fellow American citizens.

And why? Because smoking kills. ALL SMOKING KILLS. Yet states across our land are telling people that smoking and doing drugs are okay! Why? What is wrong with everyone? I don’t care what you are smoking; your body wasn’t made to inhale chemicals. Both cigarettes and marijuana contain dozens of chemicals that cause cancer. And studies have shown that secondhand marijuana smoke is even more harmful to your heart than tobacco smoke. One in six children are hospitalized due to marijuana smoke exposure. And the number of marijuana-related fatal car accidents in the state of Colorado has doubled since recreational marijuana use become legal in 2013. Yet the state of California just joined Colorado and seven other states in saying it’s perfectly okay to smoke pot for recreation.

I saw a young woman being interviewed on the news yesterday who claimed to be an employed, high-functioning, and responsible adult who happens to smoke weed. She says it’s no big deal. And some researchers agree with her. “A 2002 study, for example, tested 77 heavy smokers for days after abstaining from smoking pot. Memory impairment was found for heavy users up to 7 days after using marijuana, but by day 28 their memory test results didn’t differ significantly from control subjects.”

But here’s my question, what about twenty-eight years from now? How will it affect their memory or any other part of their brain then? People spend millions of dollars each year trying to quit smoking cigarettes, but cities and states are salivating with glee about the money they’re going to rake in because of pot sales. Oh, but marijuana isn’t addictive, like cigarettes are, you say…  However, “according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana addiction goes up to about 17 percent in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.” Now that it’s A-Okay to smoke wherever and whenever you want in certain areas of the country, how many daily users will there be five years from now?

Dr. Abi-Dargham, MD, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center and author of a study at the university said that, “the bottom line is that long-term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behaviour.” In addition, a number of studies have shown a link between smoking marijuana and schizophrenia as well as psychosis. Finally, researchers have found that the people who smoke daily for at least four years have a smaller volume of gray matter in their frontal lobe. Bingo. Know what that means? White matter in the brain. Decay. Which leads me to this…

I can’t help but wonder if my father-in-law’s rare form of dementia will become more commonplace in the future. While cigarette smoking has gone down, marijuana smoking is on the rise, and we have no idea what illnesses and physical impairments that will cause down the road. How many more people will die in accidents? How many more will move on to harder drugs when pot no longer provides a good enough high? How many more will begin developing diseases, chronic health conditions, pre-natal abnormalities, and debilitating illnesses because we’re now making it okay for people to smoke another dangerous substance. Medical marijuana, by the way, is most beneficial when it’s ingested, not smoked, so don’t even go there with me.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we won’t see any long-term affect of these new laws. But I hope and pray that none of my children or any of their children have to go through this again. At least not because some politician thought it was a good idea to make money by jeopardizing the health of his or her constituents. Beware, America, we are heading down a slippery slope, and only time will tell what the long-lasting effects will be.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Resolving to Succeed in 2017

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

Nine Tips for Losing Nineteen Pounds (and Counting)

IMG_2989It felt so good, that one little comment made by a friend after Mass on Sunday. “Psst, Amy, have you lost weight?” Someone noticed! In fact, I’ve lost 19 pounds in the past few months. For the first time in years, I have to keep pulling up my shorts, and my shirts are hanging on me. It feels good, and honestly, it has been easy. Yes, I’ve had to completely re-evaluate what I eat, how much I eat, what I cook, and what I order out (the hardest of all). I’ve had to come around to a whole new way of looking at meals, but you know what? It worked. And I’m not starving, nor am I giving up my favorite foods. It was a learning process, and I’m happy to share it with you.

  1. fmimg22490971610149207.ss-0-Weight Watchers was a starting point but not a crutch. I joined, after the encouragement of a few friends, but I knew I didn’t have the time for meetings, so I joined using the app. I found that I only needed to be a member for about three months in order to see what I was eating and how it affected my diet (that’s diet with a small “d” because I don’t feel like I’m on a Diet). I had to learn what foods I was eating that needed to be scaled back or cut out. It was also a great help in restaurants as I shifted into eating things that would satisfy but not add too many calories. I was able to track my food as well as my exercising and learned how each affected my weight. It was also nice to see the weight chart go down each week! I’ve stopped using the app, but I’m still applying the principles, and I’m still losing weight.
  2. Breakfast was hard. I won’t lie. I’m not a big fan of breakfast food. I love bacon, but it doesn’t love me. I don’t eat doughnuts or pastries or waffles or bagels. They just leave me feeling bloated. I enjoy a good pancake but not enough to eat them very often. Cereal works for me, but only about once a week. My go-to breakfast has always been yogurt, but it just doesn’t fill me up. What I really love is oatmeal, but plain, unflavored oatmeal? Yuck! So here’s my recipe for a tasty, healthy, and satisfying breakfast: I cook one serving of plain, instant oatmeal, add a quarter cup of fruit, a half cup of plain, Greek yogurt, and a dash of cinnamon. Mixed together, it’s just the right temperature, tastes great, and leaves me satisfied until lunch.
  3. Lunch was even harder. Okay, don’t laugh. In my mind, I was eating the healthiest lunch I could possibly eat. I ate a piece of fruit, a small helping of crackers and light cream cheese, and a serving size of dark chocolate almonds (hey, it’s dark chocolate, the heart’s vitamin). The first day I loaded the meal into my app, I was shocked. My little tiny lunch ate up half of my allowed points for the entire day! It took some time, but I learned what I can eat that will be nutritious and keep me from snacking before dinner. A healthy sandwich (my favorite is peanut butter and banana on Foldit 5 Grain Flax Bread), a piece of fruit, and a serving of crackers keeps my stomach happy until dinner. I’ve even gotten to where I can forego the crackers and go heavy on the fruit and still be satisfied. Or I substitute the crackers with Half Naked Popcorn. Yummy!
  4. Finding new dinner recipes was fun, and everyone chipped in. Nobody complained when I wanted to try something new. Katie is a vegetarian, so she happily helped me create new meals that were to her liking. The key was making sure that the meal was heavy on fruits and veggies and light on carbs. To be honest, it’s easier than it sounds. Spaghetti, a staple in our home, was even within my point value if I made it the right way. I have always make my sauce from scratch, so that helps. We only use whole grain noodles, so that’s another plus. Ken hunts, so elk burger is our meat of choice (if I’m adding meat). Another plus. It was the portion size that was really the issue, but when served with a nice salad, a smaller portion was easy. Once I learned that not only was I satisfied with a smaller portion, I also felt less bloated, then all was good. And that garlic bread we all like to have on the side? No problem. I just made sure that whatever I ate the next night was lighter. It’s all about balance, but haven’t we been hearing that for years?
  5. valpollicellaCSWe found new ways to make old favorites. I wanted food that was satisfying and healthy, so we found ways to add veggies into things. For example, our favorite new recipe is baked ziti. No, I’m not kidding! It was Katie’s idea that put it over the top. I made the whole grain noodles and my homemade sauce. At the same time, I sautéed fresh spinach in garlic and olive oil. I then mixed the spinach into a bowl of fat free ricotta cheese. I layered the noodles, cheese, and then the sauce and baked it. It was fabulous! Served with a salad, it was filling and rich but not heavy. And I even enjoyed a glass of wine with it and felt no guilt at all.
  6. Ah yes, the wine. That was a killer. If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely, it’s a good glass of Italian wine with dinner. Perhaps that was my problem. I like to eat and drink like I’m in Italy, but I don’t walk everywhere I go like they do in Italy! So I had to decide, eat a filling meal or drink a glass of wine. My stomach won out, and I cut my wine consumption to one glass per week. Okay two, because…
  7. I always take a day off. It seems like there is always one night, usually over a weekend, when we go out to eat, attend a party, or entertain guests. That’s my time to relax, have a drink or maybe two, and eat what I want. I forget the meal plan for that one meal and just enjoy myself. Here’s what I learned, though: eating everything I want just leaves me feeling miserable. So I’ve learned to eat what I want within reason. If I know I’m having a couple of drinks or really want that specialty dessert, I go with a light dinner. And I spend more time thinking about the company I am with than the food I am eating. Life is too short to spend every minute worrying about something, so I just let go and enjoy.
  8. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. I’ve been doing yoga for almost four years. I try to go three times a week. I do the fitness yoga, or strength yoga, so I’m working my body and not just clearing my mind. It works for me, and I feel good about myself when I leave the gym. And I try to stay active even when I’m not able to make it to class. When we vacation, we don’t spend a week sitting on the beach. We see and do everything, and I mean everything. That usually requires a heck of a lot of walking and often other activities such as horseback riding or mountain climbing. As far as I’m concerned, exercise is about moving, no matter what form of movement you choose to make.IMG_2151
  9. strawberry-shortcake2Snacks and desserts are well-deserved. And every now and then I will indulge in a small hot fudge sundae or even a cookie. But I snack all the time and don’t feel guilty. Remember the Half Naked Popcorn? It has become my go-to pick me up along with whatever fresh fruit is in season. We’ve eaten a lot of watermelon this summer, and I do mean a lot! We’ve also kept the strawberry and blueberry growers in business along with the peach farmers. I will miss the fresh fruit when winter sets in, so feel free to let me know what winter varieties you enjoy. I’ll be sure to check them out. As far as sweets, I haven’t given those up entirely either. This week, we made a homemade strawberry shortcake for Rebecca’s final dinner at home before she went back to school. It was made with angel food cake and fat free Readi Whip. I ate a piece without any remorse, and to be honest, I had another piece the next day.

Live life. Enjoy yourself. But be healthy. I haven’t felt this good in years, and I’m hoping that some of my tips and examples will inspire others to start eating right and getting healthy. There’s only one time when it’s too late to start, so what are you waiting for?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

 

Prescription for Happiness

IMG_1159I have to admit that over the summer, I had many, many moments of envy.  Not all-consuming jealousy or want-to-tear-their-eyes-out rage.  Not even the kind of envy that lingers.  Each instance lasted for just a few seconds, but it was there nonetheless.  These moments came each time I took a few minutes to pause and steal a quick look at Facebook.  No, it wasn’t the traveling, or the shopping, or the amazing photos.  It was even more basic than that – I was envious every time someone posted a picture of themselves by the pool.  Yes, I said the pool.  People had time to lay by the pool.  Some even had time to get IN the pool!  How could they do that?  How did they find the time between laundry, housecleaning, work, driving children around, etc. to even sneak into their room and put on a bathing suit, not to mention make themselves that delicious looking cocktail, and lounge by the pool?  Some of them even had books on their laps or on the table beside them.  That was serious pool time! Read more

What’s Hidden Inside?

IMG_2314I found out yesterday that my beautiful, energetic, happy, and seemingly healthy four-year-old golden retriever has a life threatening heart murmur.  While still in the prime of her life, she will need to see a cardiologist and be put on medication to regulate her heart.  Misty was showing no signs of being sick.  She and her sister, Rosie, chase each other around the yard and the house on a daily basis.  She eats well and has a great disposition.  I never imagined that her routine checkup would reveal a condition that could, at any moment, take her life.

This situation has gotten me thinking about, not just Misty, but others who may have something hidden from the outside world.  We encounter dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people every day.  How many of those people have something going on inside their bodies or in their lives of which we are completely unaware?  How can we possibly know everything that another person is going through? Read more