Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breaking News: Eating Chocolate May Reduce Heart Disease

I missed the first part of this evening’s TV news broadcast but managed to catch the second half. I am glad I did; otherwise I would have missed a fabulous story – forget about earthquakes and hurricanes and revolutions – that is truly life-changing, earth-shattering news.
The results of five scientific studies on the benefits of chocolate were published this week on the British Medical Journal website. The results, summarized on the Medical News website, report a “beneficial link” between higher levels of eating chocolate and the risk of “cardiovascular events”. The studies show that the “highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared to the lowest levels”.
Chocolate is good for you because it has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Frankly I do not care why chocolate is good for me, I just want to indulge. After all, I am all for healthy eating. I like salads, fruits and vegetables, restrict red meat consumption and try to limit my intake of sugar and salt. Adding a good dose of chocolate to my diet (OK, my eating plan is not really a diet in the trying-to-lose-weight-weight-watchers-Jenny-Craig-Nutrisystem definition, but more of an all-inclusive eating strategy) is beneficial, tastes terrific and is fun to eat.
The studies found no difference between dark and milk chocolate. My favorite is dark, but treat yourself to your favorite kind.
So bring on the Godiva, the Hershey kisses, Wilbur chocolate buds, Lake Champlain chocolates, M&Ms, Lindt chocolate bars, Ghirardelli…the list of dark chocolate brands(did I mention that’s my favorite?) produced around the world by small boutique companies and major producers is lengthy. Many of the brands can be found on the website fine dark chocolate…and I do not want anyone to forget or forego chocolate cake and other chocolate concoctions, brownies and the number one (non-alcoholic) cold weather beverage - hot chocolate.
Of course there is a caveat. The findings need to be “interpreted with caution” because most chocolate products have loads of calories and could lead to weight gain, which could then leave folks susceptible to health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, loss of self-esteem and the possible violent behavior induced when looking at yourself in the mirror (I added the last two—I can do that; it’s called writer’s literary license. But I believe it’s true. I just need to conduct some scientific studies to prove it.)
I am now going to enjoy some chocolate. I invite everyone to do the same.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Calm After the Storm

Our voluntary evacuation ahead of Hurricane Irene Friday morning morphed into a mandatory evacuation as our entire island was ordered to leave. Our 7:00 a.m. departure allowed us to avoid long lines at gas stations and longer lines on the parkways and expressways. We sailed along and three hours later arrived at our temporary destination. My girlfriend and her husband, currently residing in Las Vegas, were spending one week on the East Coast visiting family. Las Vegas girl, another friend and I were lucky enough to nab a few hours on Friday to enjoy a long lunch and rehash old times. 

Hub and I spent Friday night with friends and Saturday night with my sister.

By Sunday morning Hurricane Irene was north of our home and everyone had had enough of staring, eyes glued, at the weather channel. It was time to head home.

We were very lucky. Our house was intact and there was minimal damage to our area. Fallen tree limbs and other debris were the extent of the damage and cleanup. When we saw our home still standing we heaved a long sigh of relief and headed out to one of the three places in town open, ordered a pizza and settled in to enjoy a peaceful evening.

One of the reasons we love our home and town is the kindness and friendliness of our neighbors. One neighbor who lives across the street remained on the island during the storm. We had called earlier in the day for a report on our home, and were relieved to hear everything looked fine. Later that evening, obviously alert, he noticed an open window and called the police, concerned about looters. Looting after the storm was a major worry and a reason people were reluctant to leave in the first place. We pulled up in front of our house, pizza in tow; he was relieved to see us as we explained we had come home, checked everything out, opened the window to get some fresh air in the house and left to get dinner. He had also gone out to get dinner, returned, saw no car and an open window. It is comforting to know we look out for each other in difficult times and care. 

Our deserted street has slowly come back to life. It is a relief to know everyone is safe and everything intact.

And so we get back to everyday life and routines. Hub's business trip was rearranged as flights were canceled, rescheduled and one meeting missed. He will be able to attend a second meeting later in the week. 

We anticipate enjoying a quiet Labor Day weekend at home as 'official' summer winds down and fall activities begin. 

We feel blessed and relieved to have avoided what could have been anything from a major headache to a catastrophe. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes and...Oh my!

Since June just about every day we experienced unbelievably beautiful hot weather and sunny blue skies, with a slight possibility of thunderstorms in the late afternoon.  But the wonderful boring weather is over.
First there was the earthquake. It was only a minor jolt, but never having experienced a real earthquake, it was a phenomenon. From this week forward everyone will ask: where were you when the East coast earthquake of ‘11 struck?
Now, less than a week later we are preparing for what everyone is telling us might be one of the worst hurricanes in decades. And, as Al Roker said on the news this evening, “We can’t rule out tornadoes”.
People will ask: where were you when the Big One hit in ’11?
The earliest recorded hurricane in the United States occurred on August 27, 1667 striking Jamestown, Virginia.
We live on a barrier island three blocks from the ocean and one block from the bay.
A major hurricane hit Florida and the Carolinas on August 27, 1881. Approximately 700 people died.
We have only been in our home a year and did a lot of remodeling before moving in. As I look around at new kitchen cabinets, hardwood floors and belongings owned for years, I have to wonder if all will be intact and unharmed a few days from now.

Who would have thought the raft we bought for the grandkids this summer might be an evacuation vehicle?!
The house and stuff are just things and of course the most important issue is us. Part-timers call for an update on the situation. The older residents on our street are packing and leaving, families insisting they cannot stay. Others wait to see what happens, watching developments hour by hour.
We are debating whether or not to evacuate. We sit hypnotically in front of the TV, watching the weather channel and local news. The impact of 24/7 news amplifies everything, often making events seem worse than they actually are.
On the other hand hurricanes can be devastating. As we watch the news and the evacuation orders – some mandatory and some voluntary – we decide to leave tomorrow morning. It would be an experience to see the hurricane and the beach, but safety comes first.
Maybe the entire East coast will be lucky and the hurricane will turn further east than predicted. Irene is supposed to hit here Saturday night and Sunday. Monday seems a long way off.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Older Women Athletes Rock!

We were in Burlington VT this past weekend to see my son, his wife and new baby. My son is an amateur athlete. He was a competitive cyclist through high school, college and beyond, and then got into running. Lately he has participated in triathlons. He qualified for the amateur Triathlon Championship this year, which happened to be in Burlington this past weekend.
Triathlete on left; fan (aka Dad) on right.
The triathlon consisted of a  1.5k (.9 mile) swim in Lake Champlain, a 40k bike loop (24 miles) and a 10k (6 mile) run. It was a beautiful day as probably thousands of observers lined the route. We found a prime spot in Waterfront Park, watching the athletes complete their swim and run toward the transition area, peeling off wetsuits and grabbing their bikes.
Groups were divided by age and gender. I walked close to the transition area in an attempt to catch my son leaving the swim and running towards his bike. What amazed me was the older women athletes; women in their 60s and 70s and some competitors in their 80s.
How can they do that? The constant training and exercise boggles my mind. I cannot imagine older men and women pushing themselves and competing in these punishing races. What drives them? I imagine they are in great shape, but…
Older women athletes are becoming more common and participate in a variety of sports. Diana Nyad, 61 and previously a world-class long distance swimmer, attempted to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida in early August. A combination of weather and physical problems forced her to quit halfway through, but the fact that she had the physical fortitude, endurance and discipline to try amazes me.
A nun and triathlete, Sister Madonna Buder, currently in her 80s and still competing, began running in 1978 and has not stopped. She has competed in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon several times and was the first woman competitor in the 75-79 age group.
Then there is 91-year-old Canadian Olga Kotelko, world record holder in several outdoor track categories. She and hundreds of other older competitors descended on Finland in 2010 for the world outdoor masters track championships. Currently a group of doctors and sports training professionals are studying her to find out the secret to long-term good health and physical fitness.
Studies indicate that we – men and women – begin losing our lung capacity in our 40s and muscle tone in our 50s. A slow physical descent occurs until approximately age 75. Then the descent usually becomes a precipitous slide downhill. Professionals are trying to figure out why, studying athletes like Olga Kotelko, who seems to have bucked the trend, seeking the secret to physically fit longevity.
 I am sitting on a comfortable couch, computer on my lap, coffee drink on the table, finishing my bagel, reading and writing about physical activity. I did attend Zumba class this morning, but it pales compared to the athletic prowess and feats of others my age and a lot older.
And so I marvel at the accomplishments of others, and realize I doubt I can do it myself. My hub and I look at each other when watching my son compete – where did he get those genes, that motivation and discipline?
Not from us.
My older son in second grade had to write an autobiography. He described himself as follows:
“I am tall and thin, unlike both my parents.”
That about sums it up - physical description and lifestyle.
For the record, my son finished 21st in his age category (30-34), an awesome achievement!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Abercrombie and Fitch--Pay Me

There has been a lot of news articles recently concerning the clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch and the actor on the TV show Jersey Shore (which I have never seen) called The Situation (I have no idea what his real name is). Apparently A&F is not happy with the fact that The Situation sports A&F clothing. The company has come up with a unique solution to the problem--pay the actor NOT to wear their clothing.
I can totally understand why A&F is not thrilled to have The Situation and his pals wearing their upscale, mod, chic styles. A&F appeals to the young, but the company does not necessarily want everyone within a certain age bracket donning their apparel. Their clothing sends a message, sets a tone, and says something about the wearer. The Jersey Shore crew are not the typical customers or image A&F wishes to project.
A marketing guru-genius came up with the idea to pay The Situation NOT to wear A&F clothes. A&F, The Situation, the other actors and the Jersey Shore show have all garnered gobs of publicity.
So I have an offer I hope A&F finds irresistible.
Pay me not to wear A&F clothing.
Why me, you might ask?
·         A&F appeals to the young and hip. I am not young or hip, although I do have ample hips.
·         I doubt A&F wants to project an image of the typical A&F customer as an over-the-hill sixty-plus-one grandmother of four.
·         I do not have an A&F body. My arm flab can serve as a fan during the hottest weather. My bust is abundant, but without adequate support hangs low. My waist disappeared years ago and I have yet to find it again. My butt sags. My legs have visible veins, lines, and all kinds of weird marks on them. I am not complaining, but just want to emphasize to A&F that my body is not exactly an ideal model for their clothes.
·         I am an excellent candidate for A&F’s payroll: I am a hard worker, easy to get along with, a quick learner and willing to negotiate price and any other issues.
·         I am available immediately.
·         If I do not hear from the company in the next couple of weeks I will (reluctantly) plan a shopping trip to the nearest A&F store. It will be grueling to squeeze my body into some of their skimpy items, but I am always willing to accept a challenge. I will make sure the item(s) have the A&F logo writ large, and will stride with pride up and down crowded streets, recreational areas, festivals – you name it, I will show the world what happens when the young, hip, fit and affluent become older, wider hipped, less fit and, whether affluent or not, age and change. Clothes hang one way on a 20 year old and differently on a 60 year old.
I will be happy to forward my resume, references and any other information to A&F. I look forward to hearing from their marketing people soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Welcome New Baby

We have a new addition to our family. My son (#2) and his wife welcomed their first baby, Sydney Maya. She weighed just 6 lbs 3 oz. and is very cute (OK, I am not exactly objective...)
Is she cute or what??!!
The Colorado crew of five was in town when the big event transpired. Seven of us--four adults and three kids--piled into two cars for a road trip. We were off to visit the new baby. The kids were excited to meet their new cousin.
We left about 4:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon, stopped for dinner and eventually for the night at a motel where we were lucky enough to get a two bedroom, two bath suite with a kitchen-main room. It was 10 o’clock and everyone was tired and cranky.
The following morning we dined on the motel breakfast, not exactly gourmet dining and nothing to write about but the kids ate it. Then they spent a half hour in the motel pool before we all climbed back in the cars for the second leg of our journey.
About four hours and several stops later—for gas, pee stops, snacks—we rendezvoused for lunch at a pizza joint. The four year old screamed when she bruised her knee running around and the two oldest – the 4 and 7 year old – were relentlessly bickering, even though they drove up in different cars.
We arrived at our destination mid-afternoon. Baby Sydney was peacefully sleeping on a blanket on the floor, new Dad was sitting calmly next to her and Mom was resting upstairs.  The other set of grandparents were quietly enjoying some down time.
Then the seven of us invaded. Suddenly there was a dog barking, baby crying (the Colorado baby, all of 11 months old), loud and boisterous kids, parents and grandparents stretching legs and lungs after the long car ride.
Babies are not quite as interesting as Legos to a 7-year-old.
Sami says: Baby cousins are cool, but remotes are more fun!
The following day the kids toured a couple of local attractions, including a farm where they got to milk a goat and the teddy bear factory. Then four of them headed back to the beach, stopping to see friends along the way.
Grandpa and I left on Thursday with the seven-year-old in tow and made the trip home in one day.
Baby Sydney weathered her relatives well. She slept through most of the chaos, cried just a little, and even opened her eyes for a short time. I cannot say Mom, Dad and the other grandparents survived the visit quite so well. They spent the next couple of days recuperating from all of the commotion.
But Sydney got to meet her new cousins, aunt, uncle and grandparents, and we were thrilled to meet her.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Wal-Mart Lament

We were looking for an inflatable boat. I had no idea about prices, makes or models. I checked online, got an idea of various designs and prices and began searching for a nearby retailer.
As usual I waited for the last minute. It was Friday night, and the event was less than 24 hours away. Our town was sponsoring a Go Green Parade of non-motorized water vehicles such as kayaks, canoes, rafts, surfboards – anything an individual wanted to maneuver on the water without a motor.
We have two kayaks. Our Colorado contingent is visiting and we wanted the two older kids, ages 7 and 4, to participate along with a parent or two. An inflatable boat would also be a nice addition to our summer recreational equipment.
I located available boats at the nearest Walmart, 20 minutes away. The web site indicated the store had the boat in stock. I called the store. They were open until midnight, but when transferred to sporting goods – I wanted to verify the boat was actually available in the store – no one answered the phone. I finally gave up.
Hub and I optimistically headed out to the store about 9:30 p.m. The store was humming. We beeline to sporting goods and, after several minutes wandering the aisles, had that sinking feeling. No boats in sight. We asked two salesclerks. Summer stuff was no longer in stock – all sold.
We were tired, disappointed and – to put it mildly - pissed off. This was what I expected of Wal-mart, but for once I was hoping to be satisfied and pleased. I do not like shopping at Wal-Mart. I find the stores too big, crowded (with both people and merchandise), disheveled, and – like this experience – unsatisfactory.
I am also not a fan of the Wal-Mart Corporation. Women have sued the company for discrimination. They lost, but that does not mean the company’s denials are credible. The majority of jobs at Wal-Mart do not pay enough to support a family. They are not known for their willingness to offer, or their generosity concerning, benefits. They espoused their American-made products while many parts and products are produced overseas. They have been caught using illegal immigrants for some work.
In my ideologically positive world this humongous company would be a model for offering a living wage, decent benefits, a positive work environment and be an example of a diverse, successful work force.
Enough dreaming. Back to reality…
The inflatable boat was purchased at Dick’s sporting goods, another one of those super box stores. The boat parade is this afternoon. Stay tuned…