Thursday, December 31, 2015

Quick Tips: Healthy Heart Tips for Football Couch Potatoes

Because of all the football games coming up on television, I asked Dr. Richard Mabry for some tips on keeping healthy while being a football couch potato.

Quick Tips:

Healthy Heart Tips For Watching Football:
  • Watch your weight! Keep the snacks to a minimum, and try to make them healthy ones. Too large a middle can raise blood pressure, affect blood lipids, and put stress on your heart. Maybe that “apple a day” isn’t a bad idea.
  • Don’t reach for a cigarette to calm your nerves. Smoking is definitely not heart-healthy, and the AMA, AHA, NIH and other experts agree stopping the habit is the number one thing you can do for heart health.
  • Don’t take it so seriously, even if your team makes a bonehead play. Laugh it off! Research has shown that laughter helps relieve stress that damages the lining of vessels feeding the heart.

These tips are from Richard Mabry, MD, is the author of nine published novels of medical suspense, and a novella. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award, the Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year and the Inspirational Readers Choice. For more information visit his website or Blog.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Baby!

In the midst of doing our list from the last post, we took time out to have a baby--well, my daughter did. Here's a brief account.

Monday night I went to bed knowing Jessica was going in to be induced at 4 a.m. Tuesday. For many reasons including that one, I couldn't fall asleep until 1:00. Then I woke up at 3:30. A lot of the reason was also a four hour conversation with a fiction coach that gave me plenty to rewrite so things were spinning in my mind. I got up and started writing in what felt like the middle of the night.

At about 9:00 I got the call Jessica was in labor, so Jasmine and I left for the hospital. I had a new "Gigi" shirt.

Jessica was progressing very slowly, so I suggested we get her out of bed and sit her on a ball. I've heard it helps. Everyone looked at me weird, and the nurse wasn't in favor of it but I got bossy :)

You can't see the ball under Jessica, but you can see it under Lisa, Jessica's mother-in-law, who is a bit mischievous.

Gigi and Mimi waiting. (What do your grandkids call you? I am Grandma Kathy to my step daughter Ashley's kids and will be Gigi to River)
Jessica was making progress on the ball, but they decided she needed an epidural to help her relax so she would dilate better. Well, that just didn't happen, and she got stuck at 8. 

Finally just before midnight a decision was made to do a C section. It turned out to be a good idea. The baby was stuck in the birth canal face up. They think she'd been stuck about four hours!

Unfortunately she started breathing before she was out and swallowed fluid. Then she wasn't breathing well at all. 

She was rushed out of the room without Jessica even holding her and hooked up to various machines and things to help her breath better and was transported to another hospital. It was about 2:00 a.m. by time she'd been stabilized and ready for transport. Jessica only got to touch River's hand through the transport unit. She remained at the hospital she was at while River went to NICU at a nearby hospital.

I would love to show pictures, but Hunter doesn't want any pictures posted of River with the tube. However, I was able to snap a quick one as they whisked her by us to get ready for transport.

Today I went to see River at NICU. I was only able to place my hand on her leg. They don't want people to touch her because they don't want her stimulated right now while they are working to regulate her breathing.

She continues to make progress, and they've cut back her oxygen. They may pull her feeding tube, so she can start eating tomorrow.

Please keep Jessica and River in your prayers.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Vacation-- Do One Thing

Sometimes we feel we have to do it all. In fact, if you read articles, blog posts or books about all the things you should be doing with your children, it can be overwhelming. It's impossible to do it all!

It may not be as impossible as you think. You probably can it all, you just can't do it all at the same time.

So do one thing at a time.

With over a week left of Christmas vacation, you might be feeling pressured to accomplish many of those things we are told we as parents should do.

Well, I'm keeping it simple. Lots of at home projects. One reason is that my daughter is having a baby this coming week so plans have to be flexible for that. But also I know that trying to do it all will make for a stressed mom and kids. If it's not fun, why bother doing it?

Here are my ideas. It's an easy list really. Why not join us? Choose any seven and do one a day.

  1. Read one book. We are reading an easy version of Peter Pan that we can read in one sitting. Then we are going to watch the movie. 
    We read books whenever possible in the evening. We have read Number the Stars, The Giver,  Call it Courage, The  Courage of Sarah Noble, Robin Hood, The Prince and the Pauper, Homer Price (part), Heidi ( a 1900s version), Behind the Bedroom Wall (WWII), Shades of Gray (Civil War), The Year of Miss Agnes and more. Last summer we read 100 picture books even though my children at home are 10, 10 and 14.
  2. Do one puzzle.This is a puzzle that was my mom's in the 1930s. It does not have interlocking  pieces, so it's very easy to knock it all apart. Anyone seen these puzzles before? One child is very frustrated by this puzzle so we've told him we'll get out an interlocking one after we finish this one.
  3. Memorize one verse. Our verses for 2015 are Matthew 5:14-16.  We memorized them last January. I would often tell the kids "glow in the dark." We decided that our verse for this coming year is Micah 6:8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good and this is what he requires of you:to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
  4. Walk one mile. We are going to walk at the park at least once next week.
  5. Volunteer one hour. We are going to go to the shelter where we got Travis and Sasha and take some of the doggies on a field trip to a park. In the summer we take them kayaking. It's almost an hour away, so we don't get there very often. 
  6. Try one new recipe. Haven't decided on this yet.
  7. Make one craft. We have been doing loads of craft that you've seen in the past posts on this blog. We will be starting projects for our "Week of Kindness" (or maybe two weeks) we'll be doing in February. We actually plan to do many projects next week--splatter painting, almond bark pretzels, cards, watercolor, marshmallow snowmen, Reese cup owls, decorate pillows...but if we don't get them done, no worry!
  8. Set one family goal. We decided that we are going to try and go tubing in NC this summer. We are planning the date, finances and travel agenda.
  9. Write one letter. The kids are going to write to their penpals in SC. `
  10. Play one game. We've been playing Escape, a new Wii game Ty has, and Skip It. Yesterday Jasmine managed to hit a Christmas ornament and send it flying.

  11. Draw one picture (and give it to someone). The twins are practicing their drawing and then are going to draw a picture to send to their birth father in Haiti when a friend goes down there.
  12. Start one new tradition. If you want an easy one, light sparklers on New Year's Eve and talk about how Jesus is the Light of the World, and have each child share how he/she will be a light in the coming year. Our new tradition is that we are going to do a Polar Bear Plunge Jan 1 an hour away. We will have to get up at 6 a.m.
  13. Clean out closets and storage areas and donate one bag of stuff you no longer need to a thrift shop or local charity. We have been doing a lot of decluttering lately because I am making the family room much more welcoming!
These are just a few ideas. There are many more easy ways to make the most of Christmas vacation. 

Check back to see if we make it through our list, and let me know how you spend vacation.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

from our family to yours!

As you can probably see, Jessica is expecting a baby very soon!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Getting Through the Holiday When You Don't Want to Get Out of Bed

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on the holiday blues. Today you get to hear from a pro. 
Life Coach and International Speaker Anita Agers-Brooks is the author of many books including
Amazon Best Seller, Golden Scroll Finalist, and Readers' Favorite Award winner: Getting Through What You Can't Get Over -- Barbour Publishing and First Hired, Last Fired -- How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market -- Leafwood Publishers. Here are her insights on making it through the holidays. 

Getting Through the Holidays When You Don’t Want to Get Out of Bed

Sadly, not everyone sees ThanksgivingChristmas, and New Year’s as the most wonderful time of the year. For these, the holidays are triggers for past trauma, grief, or tragedy. Even if they make it through the onslaught of office parties and family gatherings, the approach of January can smother them with daunting emotions. Why January?

Some experts have deemed the third Monday in January as Blue Monday, labeled so because it’s considered the most depressing day of the year. Perhaps it’s the holiday bills coming in, the winter weather holding us hostage indoors, the loss of strength to our immune systems, or simply having more time alone with our memories and thoughts that get us down. Regardless of the catalyst, a large percentile of the global population suffers from anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD in the winter months. So how do you combat the dreaded black clouds associated with Blue Monday and other depressive dates? What can help you get out of bed when you want to pull the covers over your head?

Through my own personal experiences, and those of people I interviewed for my book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I found several practical helps that really work. But one of the simplest and most powerful, is understanding the why behind your emotional state. Knowing that your feelings are normal considering the season and circumstances, that you aren’t alone, and that there are things to help you get through the next moment when taking a whole day at a time feels overwhelming, is a huge relief when you’re beating yourself up for feeling down. 

If dark clouds are moving in, if you are grieving or missing a loved one, if the holidays trigger anniversaries you wish would go away, here are seven quick tips to help you get through:

  1. Eat foods proven to release mood-boosting endorphins and serotonin. Green chiles are scientifically proven, powerful anti-depressants. Add them to soups, casseroles, stews, chili, even pizza or burgers. Cashews, walnuts, bananas, citrus fruit, blueberries, celery, and tomatoes are other good natural sources. 
  2. Exercise throughout the day in one minute intervals. Sixty seconds of running in place, jumping jacks, skipping, dancing, or anything else that gets your heart rate up can help. (I suggest getting a physician’s approval first.)
  3. Clean a corner of clutter. Depression, anxiety, and trauma tend to make us lethargic, and piles of disorganization often result. Once that happens, guilt adds to our depressive mood, and a cycle begins. Break the bonds by tackling a small area. Accomplishing even one small task can energize us to do more and lift our hurting spirits. 
  4. If at all possible, take a twenty minute walk outside. Nature is a natural healing balm to a wounded soul. 
  5. Volunteer to help an individual or organization. Give anonymously to someone in need. When we give others the gift of hope, we unwrap it for ourselves. 
  6. Say no to one unhealthy thing each day, whether it’s food, a pressure someone else is putting on you that you aren’t comfortable with, or negative self-talk. Then replace it with one healthy thing, like meditation on Bible scriptures, or time to talk to God. 
  7. Give yourself something to look forward to. Daily, set aside quiet time for a mineral bath, or in a place of solitude with a good book. Weekly, schedule time with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in awhile, bake your own favorite treat, go somewhere locally you’ve often thought you’d like to visit but never have. Monthly, begin a new family tradition, schedule a weekend getaway, get a pedicure, or give yourself a date-night with you — permission to relax and enjoy a movie, a book, a treat you enjoy, not something you agree to for someone else. 

Want Anita's PTSD Busting Blueberry Smoothie Recipe? E mail her at and mention you read this blog post.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Blues

Starting with Black Friday, we enter the Christmas season. It's filled with shopping, family gatherings, parties, Christmas programs and more. The season is cheery and bright--only sometimes it's not. Some people suffer from the holiday blues or even depression. And they are often made to feel worse by the pressure to be happy and guilt if they don't.

But health issues, financial woes and loss can rob people of the joy of Christmas (or whichever holiday they celebrate).

My Own Story of Christmas Time Loss

My first Christmas as a wife and stepmom was unforgettable. But not for good reason. 

When I married my husband the previous July, his daughter from another marriage had been living with him at an Air Force Base in England for a year. They were part of a Bible study group, and some of the people in the group considered them their "project." Single dad. Motherless child.

So when I arrived on the scene, I messed up everything that was in place. I changed some unhealthy things that were  going on--his daughter being babied and everything handed to her because "poor thing doesn't have a mom." She had a mom. Her mom was just going through a difficult time and needed my husband to take their daughter while she got back on her feet. The daughter had learned to manipulate people like a pro at five years old. She knew how to play the motherless child role. Then the "stepdaughter with a wicked stepmother" role. They fell for it.

Meanwhile I was across the ocean from any support I might have gotten with that situation. Although I had no family or real friends there, my husband himself was very supportive.

I unexpectedly got pregnant that fall. Unexpected but certainly not unwanted. But I couldn't get excited about it. And I had no clue why. We should have been thrilled, but every time we started talking about plans, it fell flat.

Then the week before Christmas, I realized all was not well. I went to an Air Force doctor on a base about an hour away. He was told there was an emergency coming in, but when he checked me, he said I wasn't even pregnant. But to humor me, he ran a test. I was pregnant. He brushed off my concerns and sent me home.

A day or two later (don't remember exactly because this was 1988) I knew I was miscarrying. We went to the small local hospital. Big mistake. They did not believe in men being with their wives. After we checked in, my husband never knew what was happening until hours later when I came out of a D&C. When I went into the hospital, no one was there who had experience with miscarriages or who even had used the spectrum before. They finally just decided that since there was a lot of blood, I was miscarrying. I was told, "When the doctor gets back from midnight mass we'll finish your baby off." No sympathy. No anything.

It just got worse from there. I had to stay the night since it was well past midnight. My husband was not allowed to be with me in my room, and since I couldn't sleep at all, that meant a long lonely night.

Looking for a bit of sympathy the next day, I called someone from the Bible study group. I was told, "When I had my miscarriage, I got up and went to Bible study the same day." The neighbor told me, "It's a good thing you aren't having that baby. It wasn't fair to your stepdaughter for you to have a child."

Wow. Merry Christmas? Hardly. More like days of trying to grieve to myself for a child I'd never met. Put on a phony face so I didn't come under fire for not being a cheerful Christian.

This wasn't the first time I'd had the blues at Christmas and unfortunately not the last.

Holiday Blues
There are a lot of reason things may not be cheery and bright this season.

  • You've tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant
  • You've miscarried
  • You hoped your adopted child would finally be home for this Christmas only to find out that's not happening
  • You're in a failing relationship
  • You're in an abusive relationship and feel trapped 
  • You've gotten divorced
  • You have in law problems
  • Your parents are struggling and the burden has fallen to you alone
  • Someone close has died
  • You've moved or someone close to you has moved
  • Adult children have moved away from home
  • You have strained relationships with your children or other family members
  • You're facing health issues
  • You've lost your job or have been unable to find a job
  • The bills far outweigh your income
  • You're homeless

The list could go on and on

Unfortunately there's no easy cure. But there are some things you can do that might help:

  • Talk to a doctor. If you have depression, you need medical help. Depression isn't the same as feeling sorry for yourself and it's not a lack of trust in God. You may need medicine. Or you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder which hits some people around this time of year.
  • Talk to someone. That person might be a trained counselor, a trusted friend or members of a support group. The advantage of a support group is that it's usually free, and you'll be with people who understand what you're going through. They are unlikely to judge you.
  • Be realistic about the holidays. Not everyone's life resembles a Hallmark Christmas movie. Sometimes the happy ending is years away. Accept that and prepare for it. If your in laws can't stand you the other 364 days a year, chances are things aren't going to be any better at the Christmas dinner. Either you'll spend the time being phonies or you'll spend the time throwing verbal darts at each other. Same for other situations in your life.
  • Whenever possible, avoid people and places that get you down. Skip the parties if you are going to be miserable or hiding behind a mask. Instead, choose to do something positive like volunteering with an organization that's collecting food or gifts for the needy.
  • Don't  worry about the stuff you can't control. Instead take charge of your own life. Make sure you are following a good routine of exercise, good nutrition and enough sleep. It's hard to fight off the blues if you're feeling run down.
  • Take control of the things you can. If you are in an abuse situation, get help. If you are homeless or jobless, talk to a local pastor to find out what help is available or where you can go for the right help.
  • Grieve your losses. No matter how big or small, acknowledge your losses. Give a book to the library of a gift through Angel Tree or another organization in memory of someone. Make a digital scrapbook or journal. Acknowledge your feelings.
  • Focus on others. Helping others meet their needs whether for material things or companionship will distract you from your own issues or at least give you an outlet for your feelings.
  • Focus on what matters. Jesus. Family. Yourself. Choose activities that emphasize those things and let the rest go.
  • Look beyond the holidays. Set some goals for the new year. Learn a foreign language or sign language. Start or continue an exercise program or class. Read to school children once a week. Plan a trip and save for it. Have something to look forward to beyond the holidays.

Holiday blues and depression are real. If you're suffering, talk to someone. If you're not, be sensitive to the feelings of those around you. You might be part of the cure for someone else.

For more information:
Teen Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Preventing Holiday Depression
Myths and Facts About Depression
Teenage Depression

Friday, December 18, 2015

Our Traditions and How They've Changed Through the Years

I talked about the importance of Christmas traditions HERE. I thought I would share a few of ours.
I am including pictures from past years as well as current.

One of ours starts far ahead, and that's sending money for gifts to our sponsored children. I have two in Africa and one in Guatemala, and Jasmine has one in Africa. Sometimes we do shoe boxes or pulls tags from the Salvation Army tree. 

When the kids were little, I gave them a Christmas book every Thanksgiving. That way they had a whole month to read it before Christmas. We stored the past ones in a bin and pulled them out at Thanksgiving too. We stopped that tradition, although we still add books to the collection, but the adult kids have been given their books to keep. I gave Jessica a Christmas book for River (due Jan. 1) this Thanksgiving to start her collection.

We replaced that tradition with making gingerbread houses in teams on Thanksgiving. You can see our past endeavors HERE


This year I provided graham crackers, frosting and an assortment of marshmallows and candy and let them use their imagination. This is a penguin enclosure.
On December 1, the advent calendars go up. My mom made the first ones, and Jessica made them for the twins.

Then we begin the decorating. Stockings go up on the fireplace (which we have never used).

England 1996

The tree goes up.


Ty puts up the outside lights.


Several nativities go up.

Christmas cards are signed and sent.

We always have an assortment of Christmas concerts, church programs and programs at the Civic Center to attend. Jasmine is in the County Christian Youth Choir and has had three concerts this season.
1996 ish


There are two or three different parades the different kids have taken part in over the years. Jessica and Tyler marched with  Explorers, Jessica marched with the band, Adam marched with the band, Jasmine is marching now.

We have had various encounters with Santa depending on where we were. When Rick was active duty, parents would give Santa the presents to give the kids. For several years we had no Santa encounters (and we refer to it as a game or a make believe thing), but the past two years we've had breakfast with Santa.

The day before Christmas we bake a birthday cake for Jesus.
2010 twins first Christmas home


2014 Previously we had a boys' cake and a girls' cake but with less kids home now, we just made one.

On Christmas Eve we all go to the church service.

Then we read the Christmas story (one of the adult kids reads it now) and empty the stockings on Christmas Eve. Now that is the time the big kids come over to celebrate, so we exchange gifts with them too. Things have been changing the past couple of years as the older ones have moved into adult life and out of the house.

On both Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve we watch a movie. For a while it was Polar Express, Sound of Music or  a couple of others. Now it is whatever everyone agrees on.

Christmas morning the ones still in the house open gifts.

When the kids were younger, we'd have one last gift of Christmas. We'd hide a game, and they would have to follow clues to find it. When they got older, we just put the game under the tree.

Right after Christmas we buy each kid a special Christmas ornament for the next year. For a while I cross stitched them. Then it got to be too much, and I wasn't enjoying it. So we let them pick ones to have their names engraved on. The past two years we've got Disney ornaments after Christmas for the next year. So that trip may happen soon.

On either Christmas night or New Year's Eve, we light sparklers to show that Jesus is the light of the world.
Now that you've made it through this long post about our traditions, what do you do to celebrate the holidays?