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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

One Heart Attack + 1 Lipstick + 1 Recovery = My New Mary Kay Adventure

“I brought you a lipstick…so you can look good and feel better while you get better,” Ami told me when she visited me in the hospital. It was my first day out of cardiac intensive care, and Ami arrived with a gift bag and get well wishes.

That was  a key step in my decision to become an independent consultant with Mary Kay 10 weeks after my heart attack. Experts say not to make major decisions for six months after a life crisis. Yet another rule I’m breaking…but I see many steps God put in my path that led me here.

  • I used Mary Kay in high school and liked the skin care line. But over time, I opted for other skin care choices.
  • Most major decisions in my life happen after I feel God’s prompting me to do them. A year ago, God told me I had spent a lifetime promoting other people and causes, and the time was coming when I would sell a product. So for the past year, I’ve looked at different products. I asked God to show me what he wanted me to sell and when.
  • Last summer, I met Ami, and I knew we would become friends the first time we laughed together. As she talked about taking care of her family and reaching out to others, I felt a kindred spirit I wanted to know better.
  • Last fall, a friend sent me a thank you gift from Ami….a gift bag of Mary Kay skin care products. The moment I used them, I realized they were much better quality than the bargain basement products I bought – sometimes….after taking care of everything and every one else.
  • Then, in December, Ami invited me to a skin care class. It was my first Mary Kay event I had attended in 30 years. The products had updated, and I had forgotten just how good they made my skin feel. When I got home that night, I told Richard I thought I had found the product I wanted to sell.

Then, the next evening I got sick with a kidney stone. Five days after that, I survived my heart attack and emergency surgery.

Upon my release from the hospital, my family began completely changing our lifestyle. With the help of a dietitian friend and my daughter who was home on spring break, we reinvented our diet.

That gift of skin care came into play with my recovery, as well as that lipstick. As a wife and mom and volunteer, for decades, I’ve put other people and projects ahead of taking care of myself. It’s no one else’s fault…I made the choices to eat more and exercise less.  Leaving the hospital with a fist full of prescriptions and a folder full of dietary recommendations to help me lower my cholesterol, lower my blood pressure, and lose just over 50 pounds is a daunting prospect.

What I didn’t expect was the role that good skin care products would play in my recovery. I’ve had decades to develop a mental habit of putting myself so far to the back of the line that it was neglect.

I have since learned that taking care of myself not only feels good but is imperative to recovery. I can choose to make these lifestyle changes a form of suffering and a drudge, from which I’m likely to fall of the wagon.

Or I can choose to make taking care of myself something fun, that I can enjoy. The more weight I lose (almost at 20 pounds now!), and the more I get used to exercise, the more energy I have. And with that renewed energy and brighter outlook, I can be a better, more loving wife, mother, and friend.

Each morning, my reminder to stay on the fitness bandwagon begins with that lipstick that Ami gave me in the hospital. Except now I’ll not just wear it but share my story with others.

It is possible to change a lifetime of habits and make better choices to take care of yourself. In my case, that starts with lipstick and just keeps going.


Letting Go With Lent

A nest built with love isn’t really empty. That’s the lesson I’m learning this Lenten season.

Ash Wednesday had a poignant beginning as I realized it was the first time ever we were going to services without both of our kids. And of course part of that too was thinking that in two years, both our kids will be gone.

But during the service, there was a revelation…

We worship one God. We have one savior. Wherever my kids are and wherever they go, so long as there is an opportunity for Mass, we worship together in a different way….we listen to the same Bible readings and make the same Psalm responses. As we stand and listen to the same Gospel readings, we stand together wherever we are.  If they travel to other lands, in whatever language is spoken, we will listen to His word and can reflect on what it means in our lives.

My job is to play the role of Hannah as she did with Samuel. My children were a gift from God, and I’ve done my best to teach them what I know. The time has come and is coming for me to take them to the temple, trust them to God, and pray for them always. When in future years I see them, maybe instead of bringing them the coat I had made for them that year, I’ll bring something else. Since I don’t sew, it will probably be something knit or crochet, and that can take awhile….I’m still working on the afghan that was supposed to be a high school graduation present for my daughter. She hopes I’ll finish it by the time she graduates from college.

The challenges of the past several months give a new gravity to ashes on the forehead and hearing “from dust you were created and to dust you shall return.”

Wherever they go, I know that we can be together in the ways that matter most. Wherever they are, my prayer is they know how much they are loved and that their father and I will pray for them always, in this world and in the next.

And I pray they always remember our love is but an imperfect reflection of the all-powerful, all-knowing love of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer King.


Knowing Good People at Good Companies

“I know people,” is one of my standard lines, especially when I explain to my children how I sometimes get things done quickly.

What I should say is, “I know good people,” or “I know good people at great companies.”

Sometimes, with some companies, you have to know the right person to get something done. If I know the right person, at the right company, the waves seem to part on the company’s Dead Sea of Inefficiency, and things still happen.

Sometimes, with a few companies, it’s different. Everyone is on the same page, and the whole team understands what customer service is.

I just had one of those good experiences with Mills Body Shop in Evansville. While my car was parked in a parking lot two weeks ago, it was hit by a distracted driver. Working through the other guy’s insurance company was a less than positive experience. I had to call repeatedly for three days before finally talking to someone besides voicemail. It took two days to get repairs approved once I spoke to him. And then, when I arranged for a rental car, he barked at me that I booked the repairs starting on a Wednesday instead of a Monday.

Those are not stresses that any customer, but particularly one who is recovering from a heart attack, should have to handle. The good news is that after a week, the other company approved the repairs. Originally, the out-of-state insurance claim representative tried to send me to a body shop I had never heard of. I refused and told him that my car had to be serviced at Mills.

But there was a brighter light in this bad experience – Mills Body Shop. Yes, I know the owner. But I don’t have to name drop. As I worked with two different offices, each of his employees treated me with courtesy, compassion, and competence. They kept their word, got things done on time, and cheerfully went out of their way to treat me with kindness and respect.

You know a business owner has succeeded when you know him, but you know you won’t have to name drop because he has built his company to follow a high standard of customer service. That’s a sign of a company you can trust.

Thanks, Don.


The Parable of the Three Problems

We may have heard of the parable of the 3 talents with the lesson to make the most of our talents. What if the master gave his 3 servants problems instead?

A master was going on a trip and met with 3 servants. He told them he was giving them something and would return later to see how they used it.

He gave his first servant a single problem. That servant buried the problem, did nothing about it, and tried to pretend it wasn’t there.

He gave the second servant three problems. That servant worked a little with the problems and found ways to not only partially overcome the problems but help a few people along the way.

He gave the final servant five huge, almost unbearable problems. That servant took on the problems, found ways to overcome them and in the process not only inspired others but found tremendous ways to help them.

When the master returned, he asked each servant the outcome of the problem.

The first servant said, “Master, I didn’t want the problem to get worse. So I buried it and left it alone. It’s still lying there buried.”

The second servant said, “Master, I took the problem, found some ways to make it better, and have helped some other people.”

The third servant said, “Master, the problems you gave me were huge. At first, I didn’t know what to do with them. But I prayed for guidance, worked with them, and in the working with them the most incredible things happened. I found out other people had the same problems, and as I worked to resolve mine, I found ways to help them as well. We discovered together how we could make a positive impact. I’m astounded at the good things that have come from what once seemed impossible to overcome.”

And here is where the challenge lies for you and me. What do we do with the problems we are given?

In 2011, I wrote a book, He Uses It For Good. In the book, I described how the most horrible parts of my childhood were taken by God and used for good purpose.

Now, I’ve been given a new test for that premise. How can God use my heart attack for good purpose? Here are a few things I’ve seen:

  • Our family is working harder to enjoy our time together.
  • I discovered how hard my kids would work to help us when we needed it the most.
  • I was reminded once again of our steadfast friends who encouraged and helped us in quiet, unseen ways.
  • I finally started exercising, am fixing healthier meals for my family, and have started losing weight. This year, I hope to lose enough to match what I weighed on my wedding day, 22 years ago.
  • I’m reinventing my lifetime of recipes, tweaking them, and may possibly write a cookbook of them after I finish.
  • As a New Year’s Resolution in my honor, a friend decided to begin exercising and lose weight, adopting healthier lifestyle choices.
  • My biggest client has embraced Go Red for Women to raise awareness for heart disease this year.
  • Another couple, a husband and wife, have started exercising together. They decided if I could be impacted by heart disease at my age, it was time for them to get healthier together.
Today, we’re just 7 weeks out from H Day – the day of my heart attack. As of now, I’m publicly giving it and our struggles afterwards to God, for Him to do with as He will.
I am confident that – He WILL use it for good purpose!

 


Change and Choosing to Live with Heart Disease

There is a difference between having heart disease and choosing to live with it.

Having heart disease is passive.

Living with heart disease embraces change and celebrates life. Some causes of heart disease are related to genetics or biology, and those are the cards we are dealt at birth. My other risk factors increased because of my choices: my diet, weight gain, and lack of exercise.

It became a song that repeated itself, a verse each year, same song, different year, could be better but it got a lot worse. And finally, that song erupted like peanut butter, jelly, and a baseball bat. Except it was weight gain, lack of exercise, and a heart attack.

To choose to continue to sing that song would be having heart disease and continuing to make the mistakes that got me here.

Choosing to live with heart disease is to change those mistakes and resolve to do better. For me, those changes include:

  • Eating a lower fat, lower salt diet.
  • Drinking water instead of southern sweetened iced tea and coffee. I inhaled iced tea. And I probably drank half a pot of coffee a day. Now, I’m down to a cup of coffee a day. And each day begins with a pint of water.
  • Scheduling my diet to include fruits and vegetables. I always ate them before, but now it’s imperative. The more fruits and vegetables I eat, the less room my diet has for cheese, fried chicken, and Cheetos.
  • Logging my diet. Today is Day 26 of logging My Fitness Pal to track what I eat and measure the portions.
  • Exercising today. I can’t procrastinate till tomorrow, which I had done for years. Now it has to happen, and logging it into My Fitness Pal gives accountability for me to make sure it happens.

Those are just the steps in choosing to live with heart disease. When I follow those steps, I’m really venturing on the real path, which is is celebrating life and making the most of the time I have with family and friends.  If I stray from these steps, each step I take in the wrong direction leads me to not simply having heart disease but choosing to let heart disease have me and take me sooner.

I’ve heard that some addiction recovery programs say you have to choose to end the addiction for yourself. For me, the most powerful motivation for me to make and continue lifestyle changes is different. I want them to have more time with my husband and kids, so we can build memories together.

Then comes my challenge to you. If you don’t have heart disease, choose to live without heart disease!

Make healthier choices, starting today, RIGHT NOW, and make sure that your path never has to follow my new journey.


Going Red for a Day and Healthier for a Lifetime

In the past, on Go Red for Women, I thought it was a nice idea but had no relation to me or my life. I controlled blood pressure with medication but was convinced heart disease was something OTHER people battled.

Of course, that changed with my heart attack in December. Now, I’m one of those people – and I’m not alone. Go Red for Women raises awareness of women’s heart disease and I hope hammers home that it’s the leading killer of women.

But the real meaning of Go Red is beyond wearing my favorite color next Friday.

It’s a change in mental attitude. Diets were something that used to be optional for me. I needed to go on one, but there was time to do that – “later.”

Later never gets here. Today already is on our doorstep.

That lesson hammered home to me the day of my heart attack. When the cardiologist started the cath procedure, at the first poke, I flinched. He told me,

“If you move like that again, you will die.”

Yep, I stayed still. Now, I realize that my lifestyle habits also impact me long term. Two of my favorite foods in the world are fried chicken and Cheetos. They are gone. My outlook on food has changed such that when I see butter, margarine, or salt, my first thought is,

“If I eat foods like that, they will kill me.”

As the mom, and primary purchaser of food or selecter of restaurants, this means I control where we shop, what we buy, and what we eat. What does that mean?

  • I’m researching which restaurants have the American Heart Association Heart Check Meal Certification for heart healthy menu options. A low calorie menu item doesn’t matter much to me if it also contains 900 mg of salt per serving. Guess where our family is going to eat?
  • I’ve blogged which grocery stores in our area carry what healthier food items.
  • When festivals and fairs come along, I will only patronize those who sell products that contribute to my health instead of detract from my lifespan. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to have some vegetable packs or something lower fat available.

My next book will most likely be a cookbook of my reworked recipes of a lifetime. I’m still learning how to tweak them to preserve taste but improve their nutritional value.

The best motivation I have to make this a lifetime habit instead of a temporary fad is my family.

My desire to enjoy time with my husband and kids is more important to me than salty, fatty foods that will kill me. What about you?

 


Low-Salt Food Shopping in Evansville, Indiana

This blog is still a work in progress. I’m learning which stores in our area carry which products so I can shop when I’m close to them. As I have kept the running log in my head, I thought others might use it too.

As a mother of teenagers, I need to cook not only for myself but my family and find ways that they can enjoy a more healthful diet that they actually like and don’t just have to endure. I’m learning this is often a trade-off where we balance taste with money with fats with sodium with time to prepare foods.

In a perfect world, I would make my own salt-free Ranch dressing from non-fat yogurt (I’m developing a recipe now). I will no longer touch prepared Ranch dressings because of the salt and fat contents. However, if I needed to buy a bottle, I have noticed that often, the bacon-flavored Ranch dressings have the same amount of fat but less sodium than the regular-flavored ones. Go figure.

I’ve also found it’s crucial to read the fat and sodium content on breads, tortillas, crackers, etc. Don’t be swayed by the green packaging; read the label. Here’s where I can shop in my area and what I can get in each store. No single store carries all the low-salt items I might buy.

Wherever I shop, I spend most of my time in the perimeters – produce, dairy, meat, with quick ventures maybe to a canned good or else a dry good like beans or rice. The only canned goods I buy now are a few no-salt-added tomato products to make my own spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and enchilada sauce, and to use as a base for chili or soups.

Aldi’s: great selection of produce, and their milk is marked as hormone free. They have several “fit and light” options. I love their hummus, but it wasn’t in stock the last time I shopped there. My favorite produce: fruit, potatoes, onions, avocados, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. They carry nonfat plain yogurt which can substitute from other fatty creams in some dishes. They carry affordably priced flash frozen packages of swai and salmon, as well as other fish options.

Buehler’s IGA: nice selection of produce. They have light options throughout the store and carry Red Gold no-salt-added tomato juice. They also carry their own brand name fat-free cheese slices.

Ruler Foods: nice selection of traditional produce. Nice selection of cheaply priced frozen vegetable mixtures. Family size packages of frozen swai and salmon on sale. My favorite thing is their Kroger brand food products all have listed the calories, fat, sodium, and sugar on the front of the package. Then, I don’t have to stand at a freezer shelf, pull out each item, and read the backs. They carry fat free cottage cheese.

Schnuck’s: the biggest selection of low-salt, no-salt products. Fantastic selection of produce, especially greens like kale. Their chicken has no salt and no water added. (I wish they gave low salt as much room as they do gluten free.) Besides fat free dairy products, they also carry name brand and generic no-salt-added tomato juice and diced tomatoes (I can’t find no-salt-added tomato juice there). Their flash frozen fish (I love the swai and salmon) goes on sale in single serve packages. The best selection of Mrs. Dash products I’ve found – each of the different flavors really does give a different zing to foods. They carry fat free cheese slices, mozzarella, cheddar, and cream cheese, as well as sour cream and non-fat plain yogurt. They have generic unsalted nuts.

Walmart: Some low-salt, no-salt products. Good selection of produce, with a few greens. If you buy meat there, I like the nutrition labels on the back of the packages; just because something looks “natural” doesn’t mean it’s the lowest sodium option to select. They have nonfat cheeses. My favorite thing they carry is generic tomato sauce and diced tomatoes that is the cheapest price in town. In addition, they carry Rumford baking powder, which has half the sodium of regular baking powder and is also aluminum and gluten free.

Wesselman’s: nice selection of produce, in particular traditional food items. They carry Red Gold no-salt-added tomato juice but don’t carry other low or no sodium canned goods. They carry nonfat cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. They carry unsalted peanuts.

A caution with the prepared foods mentioned: I use them in moderation. It was almost scary to post this blog because I envision purists crucifying me for touching a prepared non-organic food. Well, this is what works for me. With the cheeses, cheese used to be one of my favorite foods. Instead of giving it up entirely, I’m now using it sparingly, almost as a garnish. The flavor is there, but not the fat. The problem with many non-fat food options is that they add sodium and other additives to make up for the lack of fat.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it shows what I can buy where to live a healthier lifestyle. And now I want to know – when I scour stores to learn what low-salt, low-fat options they carry, does the time I spend walking the store count as exercise?


Broken Glass Lessons

Twelve years ago, when our home and business burned, windows in our kitchen blew out from the extreme heat of the fire inside.

During the recovery, as we worked through packout, and then demolition, and finally rebuilding, at times we would discover another piece of broken glass in our back yard from those windows that blew into shards across our lawn.

By “coincidence,” the first time we discovered it, Richard and I both happened to find tiny pieces of broken glass in our back yard on the same day.  And when we found the pieces, we were both overwhelmed with the same message:

“The fire was terrible. But that fire prevented something far worse and more tragic from taking place.”

Since we both heard the same message independently, we took it as a message of comfort from our guardian angels. It was a little easier to work through the disaster after that. For months after the fire, when we went into our back yard, we would happen on another piece of broken glass. Each time, we took it as a reminder of what we were told.

We don’t know what the worse would have been and don’t need to know.

This week, as I worked through inconveniences, I again remembered the broken glass. It gave me hope that we can work through this year’s problems and overcome them with God’s help. He can take our present circumstances and make something new.

Broken glass isn’t a reminder of past destruction. It’s a reminder of divine protection and better things to come.


Thanks to My Kids

This was the year of the Christmas break that was anything but a break for my kids. Six weeks ago, I first got sick with a kidney stone. My son, who was driving on a permit, drove me to the emergency room as I was doubled over in pain. Four days after that, I had a heart attack, just before my daughter began taking her final exams in college. After she finished her finals, she spent her first night back home with me in the hospital.

And so began the break from hell when both of my kids stepped to the plate to not only help me while I recovered but also took care of running our household. My daughter spent her Christmas break driving her brother wherever he needed to go, figuring out how to fix meals that met my new lower fat/lower salt requirements, and taking me where I needed to go. When I needed to complete some paperwork and got stressed, she jumped in and completed the hardest parts of it for me. My son worked with keeping the household running and laundry kept up.

For a few days, things got worse. My husband got sick with what we later learned was a temporarily pinched nerve in his neck, and my daughter took him to the emergency room. She stayed with him at the hospital while my son stayed at home with me. Fortunately,  he was released after tests and is fine.

I am now on the road to recovery, when it’s time for me to start thanking people.

Both our teens helped without complaint and did whatever needed. Often, we hear people complain about teens and their attitudes.

However, teens can do great things. I know a 16 and an 18 year old who rose to the occasion and were extraordinary when we needed them most.

Thanks.


3 Health Apps that Help Me

In the five weeks since my heart attack, I’ve learned a lot and changed many habits. Lowering my caffeine from half a pot of coffee per day, changing from drinking southern-style iced tea to water, and severely limiting my diet’s sodium and fat levels are still a work in process.

Today is a mini milestone. Following doctor’s orders, after my release from the hospital, I walked 2 minutes one day and started adding a minute per day to that. Today, I’ll hit the 30 minute mark, where I need to stay for the time being. To celebrate, I’m sharing 3 free apps that have helped me in the last month.:

GoodRX: If you input a prescription drug into this app, it checks your location and lists the medication’s price at pharmacies in your area. This is a good first step in determining where to fill your prescriptions.

BP Watch: When I take my blood pressure, I can input it here and keep a running history of it which can then be  emailed and exported.

My Fitness PalThis free calorie counter, diet and exercise journal is my new best friend. With it, I can log what I eat, the water I drink, and my exercise to make sure I stay on goal. Listed below are my favorite features:

  • Food nutrition info: If I log a name brand food product or basic real food item, it often already has the nutrition information listed. So I don’t have to enter it.
  • Easy food additions: If my food item is not listed, I can easily add it to use later.
  • Recipe nutrition analysis: I can input the ingredients in a recipe into it, and it will calculate the nutrition information into it.
  • Daily and weekly statistics: With the touch of a button, I can see the nutritional value of what I have eaten that day. This helps me easily monitor my calories, sodium, and fats so I can make appropriate food choices the rest of the day. I’ve learned some things from these statistics. First, it’s much easier for me to get my minimum daily protein than I realized; that makes it easier to me to stay in the 6 oz. protein limit per day for my cardio diet. Second, even eating a diet with more fruits and vegetables, I need to work harder to get my needed calcium and potassium each day. Third, if I eat a fat free processed food, it will often have high sodium. So I need to minimize those choices or adjust the rest of my daily diet if I use them. Fourth, I had one day where I ate out, and those food totals totally blew my sodium and calorie totals for the day. However, with the weekly option, I was able to make better choices the following days to stay on task.
  • Water log: I can log each glass of water each day and make sure I’m drinking enough water. Once I saw this, I started drinking a pint of water each morning first thing – before anything else. I’m amazed at how much better that has improved my outlook each morning.
  • Exercise log: Even with my simple walking on a flat surface with no resistance, I can see the calories burned and see how that impacts what I’ve eaten that day.
  • Weight loss predictor: At the end of each day, when I complete my log, I can see an estimate of how much weight I will lose in 5 weeks if I consume that many calories each of the following days. It may not be 100% accurate. However, it hammers home a daily tie in that my food choices today will impact my health long term.
  • Online access: I can access the app online via my laptop as well as on portable devices. And they sync.

When I think of getting fit, I’m old enough that my first thought is not “There’s an app for that.” However, these apps have saved me time and increased the likelihood I will continue to follow doctor’s orders to live a healthier lifestyle.


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