How Safe Is Your Heart From Attack? (Part III)

The food came and I dug into my cheesy, yummy nachos.

Chris ignored his cedar plank salmon steak and immediately went for the stuff arranged around the edges of his plate.

“What are you doing?” I asked, between gooey mouthfuls.

“Eating the vegetables before they get cold,” he said, scooping up piles of green and red stuff and putting them into his mouth.

My own mouth fell open. “Are you kidding me?! I always thought that stuff was just for decoration!”

True story.

That was a scene from one of my first dates with Chris, and a perfect example of how different we were as far as food choices went. It amazed me that anyone would willingly eat their veggies without a threat from mom about no dessert, or privileges being revoked.

Fast forward a quarter of a century. As I previously posted, the situation with our friend Noah inspired Chris and me to begin following the heart-smart South Beach Diet (SBD). It’s basically a low glycemic-index diet, which is a fancy way of saying “low sugar.”

The diet is organized into three phases. PHASE 1 lasts two weeks and has the greatest number of restrictions because it’s in that phase that your body learns to eliminate sugar cravings. PHASE 2 allows you to slowly add fruits and whole grains back into your diet (while still losing weight if you need to lose it). And PHASE 3 is never ending. But the author claims by that final phase it will be no big deal, and you’ll have simply adapted to the new way of eating.

As a self-confessed Sugar Monster, I was doubtful that this diet would really alter my life-long love affair with sugar. I mean, I love pastries, cakes, cookies, chocolate, you name it. I literally had a sweet treat every single day!

In PHASE 1, my biggest hurdle to overcome was my treasured morning Caramel Macchiato (twenty-two grams of sugar). I’m talking SUH-WEEEET, people!

In my attempts to create a replacement, I came up with some pretty horrid combinations of cocoa powder, fat-free cream, stevia, low-fat milk, unsweetened vanilla soy milk, powdered creamer, vanilla extract, almond extract, raspberry extract, …Aaarrrghh!

Nothing made me happy until I discovered this cool website: They sell all kinds of flavored stevia in liquid form. I finally engineered an adequate alternative combining flavored coffee beans, sugar-free vanilla caramel Coffee-Mate® and multiple drops of vanilla and toffee stevia. Yum!

Well, Chris and I have now completed 90 days of the SBD and the results are in. I have to say, I’m impressed!

First of all, Chris dropped about 25 pounds. And for me, it’s the weirdest thing! I look at sweet treats I normally crave, like the box of Belgian chocolates hubby bought for me on a recent trip to Europe, and…I …don’t…care. It’s so hard to even write that! I look at all that stuff and feel like I should want it, desire it, crave it. But those old lovin’ feelings just aren’t there. It’s not even particularly painful to pass the stuff up when I’m confronted with it.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’ll never eat those goodies again. Because, I mean, c’mon. God made desserts for a reason, right? And Dr. Agatston even acknowledges it’s fine to cheat on occasion. But for now, I’ll stay the path.

Other changes I’ve noticed are that I have more energy, and honestly, I feel like my brain function has even improved--less of that brain fog feeling. Chris just had a regular doc appointment, and although his cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure have always been in the normal range (just like Noah’s were!), his numbers are even better now. This is so encouraging since we’re both at risk for heart disease due to heredity factors. By being proactive this way, we’re hopefully altering our heart-health futures in a positive way.

I realized how much this diet had changed me when we went out to dinner the other night and our food arrived.

As we both dug into our side orders of fresh veggies, I said, “Who would’ve ever believed I’d be ordering steamed broccoli. On purpose!”

Chris just grinned at me and kept eating his own veggies before they got cold.

Would you try a diet if it promised to eliminate your cravings for sweets?

Image by: Mostafa Zamani

How to Deal with Empty Nest: 10 Things I Don’t Miss About You

Well, we’re three months into this new Empty Nester thing and I still miss the boy. Since I’ve embarrassed Ashleigh plenty of times on the ol’ blog, I decided it was Josh’s turn. Again. (Heh, heh!) All’s fair in love and family! To help me along in this EN transition, I thought if I wrote a top 10 list about stuff I DON’T miss now that he’s gone, it might help. So here goes…

10 Things I Don’t Miss About You

How you liked to play with knives.

Then you liked to play
with bigger knives.

How you’d decide that midnight was a good time to go walk around the neighborhood with your buds.

The motorcycle! ‘Nuf said.

How disgusting you’d let
the bathroom get.
(For the record, this isn't our bathroom. It looks way better ours did!)

How trashed our living room was.

Getting up at 5:50 a.m.

How you liked to longboard.
In the dark!

Nagging you. (You probably don’t miss that either!)

The daily loads of dirty, sweaty, mud-stained soccer laundry.

*Sigh* Yeah, I’m totally lying.  I miss it all. Seriously, all of it.

Hey! You parents out there! Any of you who are going through difficult or challenging times with your kid and you’re thinking, I can’t wait till they’re gone so we can have some peace and quiet around here--I admit, there’s some good stuff about becoming Empty Nesters. And maybe I’ll write a post about that someday. But the truth is…sometimes I really do miss those noisy, stressful, nagging, messy times the most.

How do you get through those times when you're missing someone?

How Safe Is Your Heart From Attack? (Part II)

After the shock of what happened with our friend Noah, Chris and I took hard looks at our own genetic predispositions for heart disease. As I mentioned, both my parents have had bypass surgery, as well as Chris’s father. So we resolved to immediately begin eating in a more heart-healthy way.

Noah’s doctor recommended he read the The South BeachDiet by Arthur Agatston, M.D. I bought a copy and devoured it in only a couple of days (an amazing feat as I’m about the slowest reader on the planet). I found the information it contained really interesting!

I’d heard of the South Beach Diet (SBD) before, but since I’ve never been into what I perceived as “fad diets,” I hadn’t paid much attention to it. I figured it was some sort of body building trend for looking good on the beach. It seems I’m not the only one who had misconceptions about it. Many have mistakenly thought it was a low-carb, or low-fat, or even high-fat/high-protein diet.

None of these are accurate.

The diet’s creator, Dr. Agatston, is a cardiologist. He developed the diet back in 1995 specifically to help his cardiology patients improve their heart health. He lives in Southern Florida’s Miami Beach area (thus the diet’s name). After following his diet, his patients not only experienced, significant improvement in their blood chemistry and heart health, but they achieved phenomenal weight loss benefits as well. As a result, word quickly spread and the diet gained national attention.  

But bottom line, his diet started out all about the heart.

The SBD recalibrates the way your body responds to food, sugar in particular. You do this by going through the diet’s three phases, avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (high sugar!), and by:

1. Eating lean sources of protein (chicken, lean beef, fish, etc.)

2. Relying on “good” carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits and whole grains) and “good” fats (olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil)

3. Avoiding bad carbs and bad fats found in most processed foods like white bread and white rice, as well as pasta and potatoes.

Chris and I both wanted the heart health benefit, and he hoped to lose some weight, so we started the plan. For Chris, this diet wasn’t that much of a hardship. He’s a natural veggie lover. For me, on the other hand…well, I’m a sugar monster. I love dessert, donuts, pastries, chocolate. Oh mama, love me some chocolate! Ahem. Sorry, I digress. I figured if this diet actually removed my cravings for my beloved foods, well, that would be all right. I was doubtful, but decided to give it a try. I’ll post our progress periodically on the blog here.

In the meantime, through my SBD reading I discovered some unexpected foodie facts. I thought I’d share five of them with you today.

Five Heart Health Facts You Probably Never Heard Before

1. Starches such as white bread and white potatoes increase blood sugar levels faster than table sugar does. In fact eating a slice of white bread is worse for you than eating ice cream!

2. Immediately after eating a meal high in saturated fat, your arteries become predisposed to constriction and clotting. In essence, if the circumstances are right (or more accurately, wrong!) eating a high-saturated fat meal can actually trigger a heart attack.

3. Instant oatmeal is not a good choice! It’s too processed and thus has less fiber and more bad carbs. If you love oatmeal (Chris does, although I could never understand this), choose the slow-cooking kind and steel cut is the best.

4. Beer is not a good choice either! It’s made from maltose (maltodextrins), this sugar form increases blood sugar faster than any other type.

5. Most people who suffer heart attacks have average cholesterol levels! (It’s your ratio of LDL to HDL that plays a much more significant role.)

Have you ever tried the South Beach Diet? When thinking about your own health, how important do you think it is to pay attention to heredity?

Image by: Mostafa Zamani

How Safe Is Your Heart From Attack?

You may have noticed how much I whined about my hubby and I becoming dreaded Empty Nesters. Well, only two days after abandoning delivering Joshua to his new college dorm room, something happened which made our Empty Nester concerns pale in comparison.

Someone very dear us discovered he needed to have heart surgery, and his story impacted us in a profound way.

It all started a few months ago, when our friend Noah* began noticing his heart racing faster than normal when he ran, a short time later, he began having chest pain. He made an appointment with his regular doc, who did all his blood work and some standard tests.

He’s 49 years old. And his results for blood sugar, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, triglycerides, were all good. His thyroid was fine. He doesn’t smoke, and he’s not obese. His allergies had been flaring up, so the doc suggested that might be the cause and sent him to an allergist. More tests. More good results. But they gave him some allergy medicine and sent him home.

But he was still experiencing chest pain, so his original doc referred him to a cardiologist. This doc ran the standard battery of tests: EKG, stress test (Noah loved bragging about how he scored in the top 85% for his age group!). Again, all good. The cardiologist told him he was fine and sent him home.

NOBODY thought it was his heart.

Except Noah.

He refused to listen to the experts. On his own he "Googled" one of his area’s top local cardiologists and scheduled himself an appointment. When he met with this doctor, even he didn’t think it was Noah’s heart. But he scheduled him for a test called an Electron Beam Computed Tomography (EBCT). It’s a test where they take a three-dimensional, super fast--as in within one heartbeat-- picture of the entire heart and surrounding blood vessels.

It's an extremely accurate test, and it shows everything.

They discovered blockage.

Three days later Noah underwent surgery. (I refuse to call it a procedure! Have you noticed how everything is a “procedure” now? I say, if they’re cutting into your body, it’s surgery! But, I digress.)

The surgeon performed a catheterization which resulted in a stent being placed into one of Noah’s diagonal LAD arteries. Later, the surgeon told him that the vein they put the stent in was 99.9% blocked! He was so close to having a heart attack that it chills me!

I THANK GOD Noah refused to listen to all the experts, choosing to listen to his instincts instead.

Noah had none of the typical risk factors for heart disease, except one. His father had a heart attack in his early forties.

I am shocked at what a significant role heredity plays in our health as opposed to the traditional health issues science usually likes to blame. Both of my parents and my hubby’s father have had bypass surgeries. Noah’s experience was a wake-up call to us. Just because we aren’t experiencing any symptoms at the moment, doesn’t mean we have the slightest clue what is happening within our arteries at this very moment. I have now devoured a book on heart healthy eating habits which we will be practicing from this day forward. And I’ll be blogging about our journey over the some of my next posts.

If you had been in Noah’s shoes, would you have trusted the “experts,” or followed your instincts?

Quote of the Week

"Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken."
~ Frank Herbert ~

Image by: Kain Kalju

The Sound of Silence

It’s finally happened. He’s graduated. In a couple of months he’ll be leaving home. After decades of parenting, my youngest baby bird will be leaving the nest.

And things will never be the same.

When our oldest left for college, I’d like to say I adjusted well. I did not. I was a mess! It was strange and sad, and it took me months to be able to listen to Owl City’s "Vanilla Twilight" without sobbing.

But eventually…

Life went on, and I established a new normal. At least I still had Josh—and the whole high school routine—to keep me grounded. But now what? High school is over for this household. Forever! The change in routine will be really weird. What I’m most afraid of, though…is the coming sound of silence.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not one of those people who can’t stand being alone. I enjoy a little peace and quiet. For example, right now I’m working outside on our deck. (Love this part of freelancing soooo much!) I close my eyes and the only sounds I hear are the birds calling to each other, the soft breeze whispering in the leaves overhead, and the distant hum of traffic. That’s it. And I love it.

But the other night, Josh had one of his infamous gatherings. The evening began with a surprise party for one of his buddies. As I worked in our home office, I was serenaded by talking and laughter as the group hung streamers, decorated a cake, and created a scavenger hunt. At 11:00 p.m., the girls were formally kicked out by the boys, and “Guys’ Night” commenced. More talking and laughing, broken up by Seven-Eleven Slurpee runs, and shouts from X-Box victors. The sweet, sweet music of teenage bonding.

That’s the stuff I’m going to miss most.  

What will I do with the silence? Will I be able to embrace it? Will I try to fill it with the artificial sounds of the television or radio playing in the background? I don’t want to fear it. But I think I do a little bit.

As parents, when our child climbed onto that school bus on their first day of kindergarten, so did we.

When they made the team, scored the winning goal, got the part in the play, finally aced that test, so did we.

When they got cut from the team, hurt by a friend, failed that test, struggled in school, so did we.

And then…suddenly…they’re gone.

And I’m left wondering, will I be able to handle the silence?

Image by: Nosha

Quote of the Week

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to
build a cathedral.”
~ Frank Lloyd Wright ~

Image by: Normanack

Ingenious Advertising!

My hubby received this in an email, and I literally laughed out loud when I saw it. I did a little web surfing and discovered the ad was a real one; it was covered in the July 17, 2012 edition of ADWEEK. Turns out it is a legitimate advertising campaign designed to sell Colgate dental floss. Ingenious and hilarious!

If you haven’t already seen this, check it out! I’ll wait while you take a leisurely scroll through the following three photos…

Now that you’ve had a chance to look them over…

In the first one you will now notice that the lady has an extra finger on her hand. In the second one we have an extra arm resting on the man’s shoulder, and in the last one the man is missing an ear!

So what do you think? Did the ad successfully prove that having food stuck in your teeth draws more attention than any physical defect?

Worked for me!

Link via: Ads of the World

Quote of the Week

"Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever
remains to them?"
~ Rose Kennedy ~

Image by: Jessie Millan

Ladies...Go Red!

(I'm certain the above candy hearts are dark chocolate.)

 My sister-in-law sent me this video and I thought it was fitting to share it with you all today, the final day of the American Heart Association's February "Go Red For Women" campaign.

As some of you regular readers know, my mother suffered a heart attack a few months ago. Heart disease is serious stuff! So I wasn't sure how they were going to make a short, FUNNY video promoting heart awareness among women, but they did.

I'm sure every mom out there will relate to this. Check it out!

Take care of your heart!

Image by: Muffett

And So It Begins…

It was quiet.

Too quiet.

I couldn’t take it anymore!

Chris had been gone for a week and the loneliness sort of snuck up on me. I’d been putting in long hours on a writing project with a tight deadline. On Saturday evening, I rose to the surface, looked around, and realized I was alone. My social butterfly son Josh--who normally is happy to oblige me when I encourage him to invite friends over--just happened to have been gone two nights in a row. In general, I don’t mind alone time. I even enjoy it. But two full days was too much. I needed people!

People Who Need People

The following day was Superbowl Sunday. Josh was invited to a Superbowl Party and the hosting boy’s parents happened to be some of my favorite people. In a bold move I invited myself over. My darling friends not only gracefully agreed, but were kind enough to let me in the door after I admitted that I didn’t even know who was playing. (I know, I know--I’m un-American!) I do love the commercials, though. Here are two of my favorites!

"Space Babies" 2014 Kia Sorento Big Game Ad

Viva Young - 2013 Taco Bell Game Day Commercial

I ended up having a blast! As I drove home after the game, though, it occurred to me that this is my future. The loneliness I experienced while Chris was gone was a small taste of what I have to look forward to in a mere six months when our baby boy starts college in the fall. I’m dreading our upcoming status as full-fledged Empty Nesters (EN). Part of the problem is, as a freelance writer I work from my home. Alone. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE my job, but it’s not like I can mosey down the hall for a chat with the person in the next office. When my hubby travels, will I turn into one of those people who leaves the TV on for company? Will my one-sided conversations with the dog become the norm?

Another thing is, I genuinely love the hubbub of having teens in the house. I adore when Josh’s friends are over talking, laughing, eating cookies, making noise and staying up too late. I’m going to have to make some serious adjustments. Push myself to reach out more--as I did on Superbowl Sunday. I’ve been assured by many ENs that there are benefits to the EN lifestyle. Like when I asked an EN couple at the Superbowl Party if they had any difficulty adjusting, they both shouted “NO!” at the same time. Hilarious!

Other people I’ve talked to acknowledge that while it’s hard at first--long weeknights with no games/concerts/conferences to attend--they swear that after that initial adjustment period there are loads of benefits, like: getting to know your spouse again, less laundry, cleaner house, and especially no more high-school-early alarm clocks. Plus, there will be time to pursue interests that were put on hold. Hmm…maybe I’ll join a book club, or learn to play an instrument. (Anybody have a nice, noisy drum set I can borrow?)

One EN friend pointed out that the bottom line is we’re sending our kids out into the world, and that’s what we raised them for. We’re doing our job, and that’s a good thing. But it’s still a little scary.

Any Empty Nesters out there with tips or advice for me?

Image by: Muffet

Chocolate is GOOD for you!

Lately, I’ve been working on some health, fitness and nutrition pieces for a client, and what with it being Valentine’s Day and all, I thought I would share some recent discoveries I’ve stumbled upon. Chocolate-related discoveries. I present to you, seven, count ‘em, SEVEN health benefits you get from eating chocolate. (They’re from legit sources and everything!)
  • Chocolate is heart healthy! Studies show cocoa may reduce risk of heart disease.
  • Some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced instances of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
  • It helps lower blood pressure and improves vascular function.
  • Chocolate boosts your mood! Chocolate makes us feel good.(Like we needed research to support this one! Clearly if it reverses the effects of Dementors, it's got to be powerful stuff.)
  • Chocolate makes you smarter. Seriously! A study published in the Journal of Nutrition says so. See, chocolate has flavonoids. And flavonoids have been linked to increased brain functioning.
  • And this one is a real winner. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, reported in the Archives of InternalMedicine, that people who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner than those who never or very rarely consume chocolate. Is this cool or what?!

You’re welcome. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Now go eat some chocolate!

Disclaimer #1: The majority of the good stuff is most prevalent in dark chocolate (65 percent cocoa content and higher), than either milk or white. But hey, it’s chocolate, right?

Disclaimer #2: Chocoholics should still try to control themselves. Doctors remind us that it's important to keep a balanced diet and that all this cool research doesn't necessarily mean people should start downing daily bars of chocolate. Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

Disclaimer #3: I’m not a nutrition expert! I merely play one on this blog, particularly when it comes to the subject of chocolate.

Indulge at your own risk.

Image by 1la

Quote of the Week

“Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state.
Being in love shows a person who he should be.”
~ Anton Chekhov ~

Image by: No lurvin here

Quote of the Week

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow”
~ Helen Keller ~

Image by: A. Witt



We sat across from each other at the kitchen table.

“Look at the bright side, mom. At least I make your life interesting,” Josh said, making absolutely no effort to suppress the smirk that played at the corner of his mouth.

 “Bud, I could do with a little less ‘interesting’ in my life.” I sighed and ran a hand over my face. “I wish you’d stop giving me parenting challenges that I don’t already have a plan in place on how to handle them!”

Now his grin hit full force. “Hey, at least when I grow up and have kids, I’ll know what to do.”

I smacked the table and laughed. “Oh, no you won’t! It’s guaranteed that whatever your kids do, it will be completely different stuff than what you did!”


I walked into the kitchen and spotted the blinking light. Picking up the phone, I played back the message.

“Hello, Mrs. Bowne. This is Ms. Vice Principal at the high school. Please call me at your earliest convenience.”


I picked up my phone and sent an immediate text. “Um…Josh, do you have any idea why Ms. Vice Principal might be calling me?”

Two minutes later the phone rang.


“Hi Mom….we got busted.”


“I really don’t think this is a good idea,” I said shaking my head.

“It’s fine, mom.”

“You know there are cameras all over that parking lot and all around the school.”

“Hence our disguises, Mrs. Bowne,” Josh’s friend said, posing in his all-black attire for my benefit.

“Plus, we’ll have masks,” Josh waved a black ski mask in front of my nose.

“I still don’t think-- ”

“Did I ever tell you guys about my high school friend BAD BOY who removed all the little ringer things from the bells in school? When they were supposed to go off it was absolutely silent,” Chris said, with a reminiscent chuckle.

I glared at him. “You’re not helping.”

“Mom, we’ll be fine,” Josh said again. He gave me a quick hug, and vibrating with excitement the boys headed out the door, shovels in hand.

I couldn’t completely blame them. But still. For some reason, our school district decided our holiday break should end Wednesday, January 2nd. Even though most (if not all?) of our surrounding districts enjoyed vacation for the rest of that week, not returning to school until January 7th.

My frustrated senior son decided to hit the Internet where he discovered a school prank called “Make a Snow Day.” The prank involved sneaking over to school late at night, and piling up snow in front of the doors so they could not be opened. Nobody would be able to get into the building the next day, and voilá Snow Day.

Creative sparks bounced around in his brain like I wish they would when it’s an English paper he’s working on. Excited IM’s flew back and forth among he and his friends. And at 10:00 p.m. that night, his posse was assembled.

Sure, I could have forbidden him to do it, or taken the car keys, or sat on everyone with all 5’0” of me. But sometimes, it’s our job as parents to let our kids experience the real life consequences of their choices.

And so, 3-1/2 weeks later, they did.

Although, I’m still trying to figure out how sleeping in for three days, having loads of time during the day to finish your homework, then staying up late at night playing X-Box is a punishment?