January 29, 2009

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is the nation's most visited National Park, with 8-10 million people visiting each year. It was first founded in 1934 and will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
The Smokies are an ancient mountain range and classified as a temperate rain forest. Hardwood trees such as hickory, hemlock, birch, buckeye, tulip popular, magnolia & sugar maples, grow throughout the forest in the lower elevations. The American Chestnut tree, the most beloved tree of the early inhabitants, was killed off by a blight in the 1920's.

Conifer pine trees such as the Red Spruce & Fraser Fir grow on higher elevations, although most of the Fraser Firs were killed by a bug infestation in the 1960's. You can still see many of the dead trees still standing on Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Smokies. Thus the Red Spruce is the dominant pine species now.
The Smokies are full of wildlife. About 1,500 black bears live in the park, as do deer, elk, wild boar, bobcats, coyote, the red & gray fox, river otters, and smaller animals like salamanders, snakes, and butterflies. There are 30 different known species of salamanders in the Park. That's more than anywhere else in the world! The Park is home to 66 species of mammals, over 240 species of birds, 43 species of amphibians, 60 species of fish, & 40 species of reptiles.
Scientists even suggest that there are species of these smaller animals that haven't even been discovered yet!
The Smokies is a moderate climate, meaning mild winters & hot, humid summers.
Topographical elevations range from a mere 800 feet to over 6,600 feet at the summit of the tallest mountain!
The earliest known people to inhabit the Smokies were the prehistoric Paleo Indians. In the 1800's a large amount of European settlers came from Scotland, Ireland & Germany. When these first white settlers came, they found themselves in the land of the Cherokee Indians. Unfortunately in the 1830's, most of the Cherokee were forcibly removed from the region in the tragedy known today as the "Trail of Tears". These Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma, but there is still a large Cherokee reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina, where many work, reside, and keep their culture alive.
More white settlers came to the area in the early 20th century as loggers. They used the lumber for building houses, barns, and fences for their livestock.
The settlers lived off the land by pasturing livestock, farming, and hunting.
Logging became a booming industry in the 20th century, and the National Park was established in 1934 to save & protect the primeval forests that remained from logging. So much forest had been cut down that by the time the Park was established, only 20% of the forest remained. That 20% has been protected ever since, and comprises more than a million acres of forest.
Once the land became the National Park, residents were not allowed to live within Park boundaries, and more than 1,200 land-owners were forced to leave their homes & land and move somewhere outside Park borders.
The culture of these artisans still exists today. In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, there is a tourist destination called the "Smoky Mountains Arts & Craft Trail Loop", which is a group of shops & stores located on a loop road. The artisans that run the shops make their goods by hand, preserving the ancient culture of the Appalachian people.
In the Smokies, you will find country home-cooking (biscuits & gravy, grits, flapjacks, sausage & bacon), bluegrass & gospel music, and many churches, chapels, & pioneer cemeteries, indicating how important faith in God was and is to the mountain people. You will also find numerous arts & crafts shops, from woodworking, to knitting, painting, pottery, homemade clothing, soaps & candles, and leather goods.
"Bush's Baked Beans" Company (with their "secret recipe") is located nearby, and the "English Mountain" bottled water company resides near the actual English Mountain, an Appalachian foothill.
The Cherokee Indians call the Smokies
"Shaconage", meaning "the place of the blue smoke". Anyone who witnesses the surreal beauty of the Smoky Mountains will agree that it is a beautiful, ancient place; full of mystery, culture, and faith.
-some information from the GSM National Park Service Official Website & Wikipedia

January 25, 2009

The Vitamin of Life

Did you know that low Vitamin D levels are associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer?
According to new research, adults who don't get enough of the "sunshine" vitamin, are 26% more likely to die early.
What can you do to get more Vitamin D?
*Drink Vitamin D fortified milk
*Get a little sun, even in winter
*Take supplements: 800 IU daily for adults; 400 IU for children
*Look for foods & products labeled 'D3' for greatest potency & absorption

(from Reader's Digest, January 2009)

Sinus Problems Misdiagnosed

During these winter months, sinus problems can be a major concern for many of us. But did you know that sinus problems can cause many other aches & pains that are easily misdiagnosed as different ailments?
For example, sinus conditions can cause serious bodily aches, all-over fatigue, stiffness in shoulders, neck, & hips. Sinus problems can even cause tooth pain & sensitivity.
Recurring sinus infections are sometimes misdiagnosed as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or even chronic fatigue syndrome!
For ease of sinus problems, try saline or decongestant sprays and stay well hydrated to keep nasal fluids flowing out of the body.
Prescription antibiotics might be needed. If there is no relief after 3 months of self-treatment with nasal sprays or prescriptions, surgery might be needed to enlarge nasal passageways & improve drainage. This type of surgery is becoming more & more common, but is usually only performed in cases of extreme recurring infections.
So be informed & talk to your doctor; your aches and pains could be connected to your sinus issues.
(ideas from Reader's Digest, Jan. 2009)

January 22, 2009

Beauty for Ashes

So today I was reading "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers, and he referenced 1 Peter 4:12, which states:
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."
Chambers says to "rise to the occasion--do what the trial demands of you. It does not matter how much it hurts as long as it gives God the opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in your body." He goes on to remind us that we "have been saved so that the life of Jesus may be manifested" in our bodies.
I love this! He says that yes, we are Children of the Most High God! God has special, specific plans for us & He gives our lives special purpose, abundance, and vitality.
However, we may be royal priests, but we still live in this world. We are called to be in this world, just not a part of it. So that means that we should expect to have troubles & trials. Things won't be any "easier" because we belong to Christ, but He will give us comfort, hope, & His amazing peace that surpasses all understanding. Because we belong to Christ, the Dark Enemy can only do so much to us. He can bring pain & trials our way, to try & cripple us, but Satan can only do to us what God allows. And Christ gives us a reason to persevere through all manner of trouble.
And that reason, as Chambers states, is so that God can continue to manifest Himself in us, as we continue to live for Christ and "work out" our salvation.
If we give our entire lives & selves over to Jesus, He will do with us what He wants, and we will be better for it.

A similar scripture passage: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."----James 1:2-4

Here James says that the trials we face in this life cause perseverance to grow within us, and perseverance in turn makes us mature & complete. So enduring through trials & troubles cause God's strength & power to show through us, and cause us to become emotionally & mentally mature & complete?!?
Well, in that case, bring on the trials! And thank God for them!

January 20, 2009

Heart Healthy Foods

Oatmeal (contains fiber: good for heart & digestive health)
*Alternatives: whole grains, beans, fruits, & veggies

Salmon (contains Omega 3 fatty acids)
*Alternatives: tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds, & canola oil

Avocados, Olive Oil, & Almonds (contains poly & mono-unsaturated fats)
*Alternatives: nuts, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, liquid vegetable oils

Red Wine (contains antioxidants: reduces risk of heart attack, stroke, & other cardiovascular diseases)
Benefits: prevents artery damage caused by LDL, inhibits blood clots, & raises HDL levels
*Note: Moderation is key. This means 1 glass of red wine a day for women; 2 for men.
This article also stated that all alcohol has heart healthy benefits, including spirits & beer. (But remember that moderation is key!)

--from Runner's World magazine, Feb. 2009

Fiber--Not Just for When You're Old & Bound Up

Did you know that FIBER is not only good for your digestive system, but also for your heart? Who knew?
Soluble Fiber lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and flushes it from your system.
Insoluble Fiber helps move food through your digestive system.

It is recommended that you eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily.
Most Americans get only about half of that amount.

Fiber is found in all whole grains, beans, fruits, & vegetables.


*Oatmeal is said to be one of the BEST sources of fiber. Instant oatmeal works just as great as traditional oatmeal. (And it's easier to make!)

---from Runner's World magazine, Feb. 2009

January 18, 2009

Omega 3's vs. Mercury

All the health professionals say that eating Omega 3 fatty acids are VERY important for your heart & overall health.
One of the most excellent sources of Omega 3's in food is fish, primarily tuna & salmon. But there is also controversy about how much tuna is safe, because tuna typically contains certain trace amounts of Mercury, an element that is pretty darn nasty to ingest into your body.
I don't know exactly how much mercury is in tuna & salmon, or if the benefits of getting the Omega 3's outweigh the negatives of ingesting mercury. I don't even know how much mercury is a "safe" amount.
So it would seem more research is needed on this topic.
In the meantime, or if you're worried, consider taking a vitamin supplement of "fish oil" which contains Omega 3's, instead of eating fish.
Omega 3 is an extremely important nutrient for your body; so one way or another, it would probably benefit you to get it!
If anyone knows anything more specific about this topic, please feel free to comment.

January 16, 2009

Food Allergies

My husband, Eric, has several severe food allergies. His mother, Valerie, also has several severe food allergies.
Eric is allergic to all dairy, peanuts, eggs, & wheat. The dairy & peanuts will cause him to go into anaphylactic shock, and need immediate medical attention.
The eggs will cause Eric to become very lethargic, his brain muddled, his reactions slow. He has said that after he has eaten eggs, he just wants to sleep for the next couple of days.
His wheat allergy presents itself mildly. It produces phlegm, and he coughs a couple of times after a meal. But the coughing spell is short-lived and then he's back to normal. He jokingly says that he refuses to acknowledge his wheat allergy because he already has so many.
Most of Eric's food allergies were discovered when he was very young, although the egg allergy wasn't diagnosed until his later childhood.
I keep meaning to purchase an epi-pen to keep in the car, just in case Eric eats something he's allergic to. I think, although he is always very careful, that an epi-pen would be a wise thing to have handy.
We have had a couple close calls, like when we were eating at Jimmy John's (a sub sandwich restaurant), and Eric asked for "no cheese", but they put cheese on it anyway. Eric didn't realize there was cheese until he started feeling some mild effects of anaphylactic shock.
We sat, holding hands, until it passed and he was well again. He got a new sandwich made and a refund on the old one, which was professional of Jimmy John's, but it still scared us to death! (Or should I say, I was scared to death!)
So, even though we're both very careful to know the exact ingredients in food (especially when we eat out), mistakes do sometimes happen.
Just a couple weeks ago, Eric ate some homemade gingersnap cookies that our good friends from church baked. They weren't sure if there was butter or milk in the cookies, so Eric ate a small bite and waited for a few minutes. He felt no reaction, so he ate half of a cookie, and still nothing. So he ate a whole cookie and still felt fine.
Well, he ended up eating about 10 cookies, and only as we were leaving did he feel slightly nauseous. The feeling passed within a few minutes, so he thought nothing of it.
Only later did the baker of the cookies call Eric & tell him that the cookies were loaded with butter! So apparently dairy, when baked into something, must not be as potent as normal dairy products. These are the hard lessons we've learned about Eric's food allergies.
Food allergies are becoming more & more prevalent in children, perhaps because technology enables premature babies to survive, when they may have died in earlier times.
I wanted to tell Eric's story and encourage anyone who thinks they may have food allergies to get tested.

January 13, 2009

Plans for Hope and a Future

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
--Jeremiah 29:11

I LOVE this verse from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah! God says that not only does He know of the plans He has laid out for our lives, but that they are GOOD plans that are not meant to harm us, but to help us prosper, giving us hope (which is always desperately needed!) and a future. God's plans, if followed, are intended only for our good, and ultimately His Glory.
Hope is what helps us realize and implement our dreams, hang onto the Lord when all else says to let go & find our own way (which will eventually fail). God knows that humans need Hope, which He gives us in the form of His hands gently & firmly molding and guiding our lives to His good purposes.
Don't gloss over the words in this verse. Don't let it lose its meaning; for it's an AMAZING promise from a God who loves us intimately!

It's Official!

I now have ads on my blog! So far, there are 2 on the left side, & one on the very bottom of the page. The blog is officially up & running!
My goal is to post at least once a day, although there may be days when I cannot post. But I plan on giving this blog my utmost attention daily!
The oldest posts are towards the bottom of the page, and the newer posts are closer to the top.

January 12, 2009

4 Basic Rules for Healthy Eating

A very concise, basic list for Healthy Eating Tips:

1. Consume carbs in the form of whole grains & fiber
2. Avoid trans fats & saturated fats (
trans fats are "man made" fats with no health benefits)
3. Eat lean protein
4. Fill up on plenty of Fruits & Vegetables

*Scientists are now saying that you need about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 days a week for a healthy heart. It doesn't have to be 30 minutes all at once, however, you may exercise 10 minutes, three times a day to fulfill the same requirement.

(these thoughts came from the January edition of Reader's Digest, by Joanne Chen)

Eternal Life Starts Now!

The sermon at Eric & I's church on Sunday was a great one! We go to University Christian Church (UCC), in downtown Clifton, near UC's campus. It's the same church that we were married in, as well.
The guest speaker talked about how the whole concept of "Eternal Life" in Christ makes most people think of when we die & go to Heaven to live with Jesus. But his point was that "eternal life" starts here and now, on this earth, in our lives, right now! He quoted the verse where Christ says that He came to give us "Abundant Life," and said that is describing our lives right here and now as we live them, not just what will happen after we die.
I think this is an EXCELLENT point to remember! God wants to make our lives full & abundant now, not just later in Heaven. This also implies that the Lord has specific & important work and purpose for our lives on earth, so don't get too caught up in thinking about the future, but live that abundant life now!
An amazing book about living a purposeful life here on earth is "The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren. It's very easy-to-read, with tons of straight-to-the-point insights. I highly recommend it.

January 10, 2009

Benefits of a Food Journal

I keep a daily food journal.
I write down everything I eat and the calorie content. If I am eating at a friend's house or do not have access to the exact number of calories, I make an educated guess.
If I eat out, I try to look up the amount online. (You might be surprised how many restaurants list their nutritional info online).
I do not go overboard or get obsessed with keeping track, but it is a great way to see what foods I'm putting into my body & what foods I eat too much of.
Plus, I also log how many miles I ran that day and subtract how many estimated calories burned from the total number of calories for the day. That gives me a good estimate of how many calories I ingested for the day, after exercise.
You can do a food journal short-term or long-term. Some folks only need to keep track of what they eat for a short while, and they learn all they need to learn about their eating habits. I have heard, however, that those who keep food journals longer lose more weight. It makes sense to me, because they are keeping themselves informed about what they eat.
My food journal is also small enough to fit into my purse, so it's easily transportable!

January 8, 2009

Financial Thoughts to Ponder

1. For a minimum level of financial security, your net worth (the cash value of all your assets) minus all your debts should equal ONE year's income.

2. You are wealthy enough to give some money to worthy causes when you can buy all the groceries you need.

--Excerpted in "Reader's Digest" from "Rules of Thumb: A Life Manual-Brilliant Guestimates, Shortcuts, & a Few Shots in the Dark" by Tom Parker

Nice financial food for thought, eh?

January 7, 2009

The Enemies of Endurance

The Enemies of Endurance:

*Physical weariness
*Emotional frustration
*Mental discouragement
*Fear from threats

This is from Nehemiah (4:10-12). God always asks us to "endure", especially when when the road ahead is dark. He says that when our faith is tested it "will come forth as gold." The Book of James says to "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face troubles of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete & mature, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
But as we all know, the Enemy makes it EXTREMELY difficult to persevere & endure, sometimes in even the most trivial of circumstances.
I think the above list is SO TRUE. The Dark One knows the ways to get us, and he preys upon our emotions, our weariness, our frustrations, & our fears. He knows that we are often too easily swayed & controlled by our emotions, even if we do not mean to be.
Sometimes it is not a direct attack from Satan that wears us down, but simply us living our fast-paced lives, taking little time for ourselves. It is imperative that we each spend some quiet, alone time with the Lord, to rejuvenate our bodies, renew our minds, and quiet our fears & misgivings.
Furthermore, the Lord WANTS us to take time with Him. After all, doesn't His presence in our hearts & minds do nothing but GOOD for us anyway (if we let Him attend to us & give everything over to Him)? He created us to need Him & interact with Him not only on a daily basis, but on a every-second-of-every-day basis. He created us for His constant presence, so no wonder we fall apart & our lives become meaningless as soon as we venture away from Him!
I am, of course, not immune to this. But I believe it is a valuable lesson to learn & easier to combat Satan on this issue when we become aware of our potential weaknesses & his schemes.

The Right Shoes

I cannot stress to you the importance or wearing the right shoe for your foot, whether you're running, jogging, or walking. Go to a specialty shoe store, where the sales person will hopefully measure your bare foot, press around your arch area with their fingers, fit you with the right width & support that's perfect for your foot.
After running for several months in cheap, neutral running shoes, I was having tons of back pain, muscular core pain, some knee pain, and sharp shin pain (that were not shin splints). This finally led me to do some research, and I realized that not only were my shoes just simply too cheaply made, but my feet actually were a little wider than normal. I also found out that I "over-pronate", which means when my foot hits the ground, it rolls inward more than it should, causing my knees to bend inward too much. This rolling inward motion every step I took was the main reason for all those aches & pains that just wouldn't go away. And no wonder; I was hurting my body with every step I took!
So I went to Fleet Feet Sports in Blue Ash, OH (about a half hour North of Cincinnati), where they fitted me with very supportive shoes and even with some supportive insole inserts to wear inside my shoes. They were extremely professional & knowledgeable, and I now have running shoes that support my body instead of making it work against itself. After 2 weeks, my back muscles have mostly loosened and my knees & legs no longer hurt. What a relief!
I highly recommend that anyone with aches & pains realize that it might be because of wearing the wrong kind of shoe, and do some research, then go to a specialty shoe store for help!

Reasons For Establishing a Blog

My reasons for starting a blog are simple. I believe that I have some valuable knowledge to share with others about the topics of Christianity and healthy living. I am no expert (and will never claim to be so!), but would love the opportunity of sharing with you what I have learned & gaining insight from you, my readers.
I know the term "healthy living" is an extremely broad one, and I don't intend to necessarily cover all possible items that fall under that heading. I would like, however, to focus my blog on discussing physical activities & their benefits, such as running and core exercises, and healthy eating habits. An example of the "healthy eating" category is: you can lose 1 pound a week by simply cutting out 500 calories daily.
This blog will be a Christ-centered discussion of healthy lifestyle choices, including the physical, emotional, mental, & relational aspects of our lives.
I look forward to learning & growing right alongside of you, my readers.
Please look around, explore my pages, and talk back!