Sunshine

sunshineI am a self-described sun-safety girl. I wear sunscreen, a hat and avoid the mid-day sun like a mole. If I do need to be outside, I seek shade.

Imagine my surprise when I recently (medically) tested TOXIC for Vitamin D. Oh yes! I can almost see your jaw dropping to the ground. After all, what North Dakotan is EVER toxic for Vitamin D? Well, me, evidently. Sun-Safety Girl.

I had orally taken 3000 i.u of a Vitamin D 3 supplement throughout the bleak North Dakota winters for several years. (I thought I was only taking 2000 but I didn’t account for the 1000 in my multi-vitamin.) I had always ended the additional supplementation during the summer months but this year was different. I was experiencing a lot of symptoms that led me to believe I was deficient in Vitamin D.  When I had previously (last year) visited with my doctor she said she had quit testing for Vitamin D deficiency as everyone seemed to be deficient.

By July, I had been experiencing overwhelming lethargy for several weeks. I’m not just talking about being tired, I’m talking I couldn’t function. By early to mid-afternoon on most days, I was a zombie. If I was able to nap, I fell asleep within minutes. If I wasn’t able to nap, I could barely get my eyes to focus. I’m not exaggerating, this was very real.

It was a blessing and a curse to be so busy with Reiki energy/clients. I would feel amazing while I was working with them, but once my workday was finished, or sometimes even in-between clients, I wanted to collapse. Several times I worried I would fall asleep in the car, while driving home. THAT is the crushing tiredness I felt.

My body seemed to be constantly hot, too. I’m not talking about hormonal flushing/flashing, either. I’m talking about a constant internal thermometer that was several degrees higher than the norm.  Sleeping was incredibly difficult as, I imagine, my body felt like it had continual internal sunburn.

The days where I would get some sunshine were worse. It seemed to intensify the negative effects. I would find myself mumbling to my husband at 6:30, “I have to go to bed. Now.”  This didn’t happen often as I felt like I had to power through my tiredness. Of COURSE I did, right moms?

My brain was having issues, too. Foggy thinking, memory problems and impatience were common. My body had lower abdominal pain, muscle weakness, ringing in my ears, bloating and joint pain.

I couldn’t know that my body was feeling as if it had just spent all day in the summer sun, at the lake, in the water and without sunscreen. I just thought it was more menopause fun and games. After all, the symptoms are very similar.

Finally, at the end of August, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew something was seriously wrong when I was thinking thoughts that were very unlike me. I emailed my doctor and said, “I know I’m deficient in Vitamin D, I just don’t know how much. Can you test me, please?” So she did. She not only tested me for Vitamin D but for thyroid, parathyroid, iron, ferritin, B-12, etc.

As a side note, during this time Susie and I would work (Reiki) on each other and Sus kept seeing lots of red, orange, yellow and a smidgen of blue and white colors being absorbed into my body. She kept saying I was assimilating the sun; I was becoming sunshine.  I was also experiencing “solar flares” (yes, just like the physical sun) which caused my body to run hotter at times. She saw a sun-like orb being absorbed into my solar plexus area.

Once I received my test results, I immediately stopped all forms of Vitamin D. Well, sort of. I still took my fish oil and ate copious amounts of organic eggs. I didn’t know, until writing this blog, that eggs and some fish oils contain Vita D. (Head slap) Good Christ. How much Vitamin D was I REALLY getting?!

Within two days of being off most forms of Vita D, I remember thinking, “Oh my God. I have patience (with my daughter) and I’m actually smiling and enjoying playing with her again instead of wishing I could go to bed. How long has it been like this?!”

It’s been a month now since I’ve severely reduced my consumption of Vitamin D and I am significantly less fatigued.  I am sleeping better and my body seems to be several degrees cooler at night. My brain fog has lifted slightly and my joints no longer ache. I seem to be able to make it through my client load without crumpling.

I’m by no means feeling like a spring chicken. I AM dealing with hormones (egads, that’s almost more scary than being Vitamin D toxic!), but I am much, much better.  When a gal in my gym class recently said, “You’re just like sunshine!” I smiled but muttered inside my head, “If you only knew the half of it, sistah. If you only knew.”

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Radon

Radon is radioactive gas that naturally occurs from decaying uranium in our soil. It’s a killer. It causes more deaths per year (21,000) than drunk driving. North Dakota and Western Minnesota are in the ‘red zone’1 which means we have a high concentration of this cancer causing stuff.

We (well, most of us) take precautions against the radioactive energy the sun emits. We use sunscreen, hats and wear sunglasses to avoid injuring (tanning or burning) our bodies and eyes. We are aware of the harmful effects the sun’s radiation has on us. But most of us have never heard of radon and yet it is the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers and the top cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.2

Radon is insidious and it’s not just a house problem. It is in schools, dorms, work places, churches, apartments, day cares, etc. It can take years and years for the destructive effects of it to show up. And it’s not just from the ground, ooooh noooooo! This stuff can be in your water supply, although it’s much more common if you use well water or your city uses ground water (water held under ground). You will be exposed to it, although minimally, every time you bathe, drink or use water.

Before I continue, I want to share two things. The first is a story about a client of mine whom I had intuitively asked, “Are you a closet smoker?”  She said, “No! Never!” and I said, “well, there’s something with your lungs.”  She put it together and came up with the fact she needed to get her (Minnesota farm) house tested for radon.  She told me, after having a radon mitigation system installed, her breathing became easier and she had more energy within two weeks. To quote Polly, “It was as if I had a new life.”

The second is my daughter who has had a swollen lymph node on her neck since she was six months. The doctors aren’t at all concerned because there hasn’t been a change in the size of it. I, on the other hand, am concerned. I know this lymph node issue could be related to the radon in our house. After all, she didn’t have it at birth and her bedroom is directly above the room that contained the highest concentration of radiation.

What orginally brought radon to my attention was an article in the Fargo Forum a few years ago.  I got a bit excited (hyper!) about it at first but that’s where I left it.  Then Polly’s story…and Ceta’s lump.

We had contacted the radon mitigation company Polly used but they were leery about the results given the location of our sump pump.  I let it go until my mother-in-law put an offer on a home in West Fargo. She, a survivor of lung cancer, had the radon levels checked. They were, of course, very high.  As part of the sale, she stipulated the house must have a professionally installed, working radon mitigation system.

I should also mention that just because your house, or your neighbor’s house, has high radon levels, it doesn’t mean yours (or theirs!) will. It’s kind of a crappy luck of the (decaying uranium) draw.

This blog now becomes another story of when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I called the dude who installed her mitigation system, explained about our sump pump placement and he said he could almost always find a solution.  And he didn’t let us down.

We hired Valley Radon Mitigation and after Chris installed our mitigation system, our radon levels dropped from 13.0 to .08 in two days.  Did I mention the radon levels dropped from 13.0 to .08 in TWO days?!  All he did, and this is generalizing, was cut a hole in our furnace room floor, run a pvc pipe to the outside and installed a fan to move the radon away from the house.

What can you do? Have your home tested. We purchased our radon kits at a local hardware store and sent them in to be analyzed, but you can also hire a qualified radon tester (I actually typed, ‘texter’!!).  To find a qualified radon tester, you can check with your State Radon Office (yes, evidently, there IS such a thing!), your neighbors or even search google.

Next, know what levels are acceptable for your area.  The EPA states anything 4.0 and above must be fixed and anything less can still pose a risk and, in many cases, should be reduced. As I stated above, all of North Dakota and a large chunk of Minnesota (all except the Iron Range) is in ‘red’ meaning the soil contains a high concentration of this cancer-causing radiation.

Then find a reputable, professional radon mitigator(s).  Have them come and take a look, get quotes. But be careful! Some companies are quoting $6,500 because they carry a ‘certified’ label. Generally, the price averages around $1200. According to the EPA, the expense should be the same as “other common home repairs.”

Then, take action. Hire that someone. Get. It. Done. It only takes about 6 hours for a professional to install a radon soil mitigation system. The results are almost instantaneous and, dare I say, life changing (saving?). Yes, I dare.   Rebel.

For more information:

1: http://www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html

2: http://www.doctoroz.com/article/radon-danger-your-home

Tanning

“Oh, you got some sun!  You look SO good!”  Or, said with an enviable voice, “You’re soooooo tan.” I have overheard these and similar comments being said and I’m finding I’m having a very strong reaction to them…so….a blog is born.

A tan is NOT healthy, it is NOT good for you and it is NOT to be envied. Do you know what a tan is? It’s your body’s innate reaction of trying to protect you…your skin… from further damage. So let’s tweak the above statements.  “Oh, you got some sun DAMAGE! Your poor skin!” or “You’re soooo tan. I’m so sorry!”

Yeah, I’m having a little fun with this but I do speak from experience.  You see, when I was a teenager and a young adult, I remember racing home from work so I could lay in the sun, even for a half hour.  I would bake in my early to mid-twenties by applying baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic Tan Accelerator.  Then something changed and I started applying sunSCREEN.  That was also about the same I started washing the make up off of my face at night, but that’s another story.

As a child, I was lucky enough to be at several lakes throughout ND, MN and SD. I used sunscreen, but I don’t remember reapplying.  I loved being in the water, and my pale Norwegian/Austrian/Mutt skin had many, many severe sunburns. I remember one, in particular, that caused me to throw up several times.

In my mid to late twenties, I visited my parents while they wintered in Arizona.  It was a cloudy day but I was in Arizona and I wanted to get a suntan, dang it!  Oh my LORD! I’d been warned that the Arizona sun was much different than the North Dakota sun but I didn’t listen. Sans sunscreen, my face became so badly burned that my eyelids swelled shut.

When I was in my late thirties, I worked at a skin and laser clinic.  I learned much about our skin and how to take better care of mine. I also learned that the cosmetic industry was capitalizing on the fact that women were willing to pay big bucks in order to reverse the damaging effects of their days of fun in the sun.

My oldest niece (she was 38 at the time) was diagnosed with Melanoma. For those of you who don’t know, Melanoma is the mack daddy of skin cancers. It is scary stuff and it takes lives. Based on my childhood/early adult sun life, I’m a prime candidate for melanoma, as well.

So how did we get our love for tanning?  Here’s a little tanning history; back in the olden days, you were considered ‘lower class’ if you had a tan because that meant you had to work outdoors.  Conversely, those without a tan were considered ‘upper class’ because they didn’t have to work in the sun.

Then, in the 1920’s the designer, Coco Channel, became sunburned while on vacation and well, that was the start of our sun tanning love affair1.

It doesn’t matter if you choose to get your tan on from a tanning bed or the sun; both give off UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) radiation. In fact, tanning beds emit concentrated doses. I can usually spot a tanning bed user as they tend to give off a weird glow, kind of like a neon bulb.

And don’t think you can’t get burned on a cloudy day. I asked my 14 year old bonus son to apply sunscreen the other day and he looked at me like I was spouting a second head (he IS a teenager, after all!). He said, ‘It’s cloudy outside! You can’t get burned when it’s cloudy!!”  Ohhhhh…chil’….I have the same argument with your dad.  YES, yes you can. The sun’s rays penetrate through the clouds.

When I was younger, I didn’t take aging very seriously. Who does?! Back then my attitude was ‘get a bronzing tan today, feel/look good and don’t worry about tomorrow.’  As a teenager/young adult, you never think about your own mortality because you are invincible. Plus you know more than your parents, right?

Now that I am older, I am trying to reverse the damage. I’m fighting the odds of skin cancer and aging. I am proud to be pale. You’ll not hear me apologizing for being un-tanned either, as that would be like me apologizing for trying to stay healthy. “I hope my white legs don’t blind you. I’m trying to remain cancer-free.”

So here I am, years later and much wiser, a self-proclaimed ‘sun-safety girl.’  I wear sunscreen almost all of the time (I’m not perfect!) and I wear hats. I seek shade whenever possible, I wear UVA/UVB protective sun glasses and I am rarely out during the hottest part of the day. I watch my moles and have my doctor check them once a year.

I hope this blog causes you to rethink, even for a moment, how we aggrandize a tan. It is nothing more than our body trying to protect ourselves from harm. The rays, whether they are from the sun or a UV lamp, are NOT healthy; they CAUSE CANCER.

Coconut Oil

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I’m a relative newcomer to the coconut oil bandwagon.  A few years ago, Charmaine told me how I could evenly substitute coconut oil for butter when making cookies or while cooking.  It took me a while to warm up to the idea but once I did, it was bub-bye butter.

Shannon has told me she uses organic, unrefined coconut oil for almost everything. She takes tablespoons of it each day to help with her Fibromyalgia, reduce her sugar cravings and allow her to feel satisfyingly full. She uses it as a facial/body moisturizer and mixes essential oils with it for a deodorant. She tells me it’s the MacGyver of oils. If she can’t use coconut oil with or for something, it’s not worth doing. Connie, who has a strong background in cosmetology, tells me she uses coconut oil as a deep conditioner for her hair and a moisturizer for her lips and cuticles.

Ahhhhh, the humble coconut; so unassuming and yet so multi-dimensional. According to Mercola.com, these two gals are spot on with their uses. In fact, here’s a few more:

·         Shaving lotion: Just apply a thin layer and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also act as an antiseptic for shaving nicks and cuts. Good to know for people like me who, um, like to get the most out of their disposable razor.

·         Insect Repellant: Mixing coconut oil with a high-quality essential oil(s) such as peppermint, lemon, rosemary, tea tree, citronella or catnip oil can help repel those little buggers. Wait. Catnip oil? Really? Yep. According to one study, catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET. Well, shizzle my dizzle! I wonder if you’ll have all the kitties in the neighborhood after your milkshake?? I also wonder if this study was done on ND/MN mosquitos! 

·         Head Lice: LICE?! Yep. Combine coconut oil and anise to create a treatment that is nearly twice as effective as the prescription Permethrin.

It can also be used alone, or in some cases, in combination with a high quality essential oil for cold sores, ear infections, bug bites/stings, athlete’s foot, chicken pox and eczema.  I can attest to the eczema part as my daughter is prone to bouts of eczema during the winter months. This year I am using organic, unrefined coconut oil on her and her eczema is almost non-existent. In contrast, last winter we went through a tube of (sparingly used) hydrocortisone.

It’s also said that coconut oil destroys free radicals and can help your skin look more youthful by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles.  If looks aren’t your thing, how about your health? Coconut oil contains 50% of a ‘miracle’ ingredient called lauric acid. This acid can actually destroy viruses such as measles, HIV/herpes, influenza, pneumonia, UTI’s and vaginitis.

What are some of the physical benefits to using coconut oil over others? Well, a HUGE one is organic coconut oil isn’t genetically modified, however over 90% of soy, corn and canola oils are. Zoinkies Scoob!  Organic coconut oil promotes weight loss, metabolism, immune system and heart health as well as providing immediate energy.  Yes, you read right: immediate energy. That’s because coconut oil is immediately converted to energy, via your liver, instead of being stored as fat. No kidding.

I was curious about the difference between refined and unrefined (virgin) coconut oil. Refined is good for baking and cooking as it can withstand higher temperatures (450 degrees). It also doesn’t have any coconut smell.  The reason for this is because unrefined coconut meat is often dried in open air and, because of this drying method, can result in salmonella poisoning. To ensure this doesn’t happen, the coconut meat needs to be purified and is put through a bleach filtration system. Once that’s done, it’s heat treated to remove any odor.1

Unrefined (virgin) coconut oil uses fresh, not dried, coconut meat. This ensures the oil is sanitary and doesn’t need additional purification, however it can only withstand 350 degree heat. To produce unrefined coconut oil, there are two methods used and while I’m not going to go into detail (you’re welcome), I will say that both methods result in a coconut oil that wasn’t purified by bleach. Because of this, it does maintain some (mild) coconut odor. 

Through personal experience, I find the unrefined coconut oil to be a better choice for lotion as it melts like buttahhh when rubbed between your palms. The refined is more difficult to melt and now that I know bleach is used to purify it…well….. (gulp).

And what coconut oil blog would be complete without dispelling what you think you know about the saturated fats in coconut oil? Pishaw, my faithful readers! Not this blog!  It’s not the enemy you may believe it to be. The saturated fats in coconut oil are naturally occurring. Ding ding! The key words here, in the saturated fat fight are, ‘naturally occurring.’ You see, again according to Dr. Mercola,2  there are  other fats which are “artificially manipulated into a saturated state through the man-made process called hydrogenation.”  If this is the case, it will result in trans-fats which actually contribute to heart disease.  Fair warning! Some of the coconut oils on the market contain hydrogenated oils and trans-fats.  Blasphemy!

I guess the long and the short of it is coconut oil is a dynamo. It has healing, healthful properties and is safe to use both internally and externally. Be sure to read labels (check for trans-fat, hydrogenated oil and even ‘animal byproducts’ – euwwwww) and buy a good quality organic coconut oil; don’t just go for the cheapest.

Maybe make the switch in cooking first and then baking. Then, maybe think about switching your expensive facial moisturizer or maybe even your methyl paraben’d body lotion for plain old coconut oil. Why stop there?  Toothpaste? Sure! Polish furniture? Yes! Oil rusty door hinges? You bet!  Moisturize leather, including the interior of your car? Yes, Yes, YES!  Coconut oil could quite possibly become your MacGyver, too.

IET

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What’s IET? It’s Integrated Energy Therapy. Ok, so what’s Integrated Energy Therapy? The long and the short of it is IET is energy work that is specifically designed to help heal emotions, negative beliefs and/or karmic problems.

My friend Shannon performs IET and told me it was created by a Reiki Master so there are a lot of similarities to Reiki. IET differs because it specifically uses a cellular release/imprint method as well as 9 Healing angels. During my session, Shannon explained she’d be using trigger points to release the old and imprint the new. A couple examples of this would be to say, release heartache from the heart and imprint it with love or release fear from the kidneys and imprint safety. She told me how, in IET, angels were associated with different parts of your body (i.e. throat, heart, liver, kidneys, etc.) and would assist with each clearing/imprinting.

I expected this to be a lot like Body Talk where there is a continuous dialog between myself and the practitioner. I also thought I’d be an active participant by saying affirmations with each release.  That was not the case (for my session, anyway) and I kind of liked the silence. I found myself internally repeating, “I easily release all that is no longer for my highest good.”

As with Reiki, I was fully clothed and lying on a massage table. I was peacefully floating along and feeling the gentle energy course through my body. While Shannon was at my throat area, I had an interesting physical reaction. My heartbeat increased, my breathing became shallow and I felt something close to panic. My eyes fluttered open and I said, “Shanny. I’m having a very physical reaction to what you’re doing” and I told her my symptoms. She said she was currently releasing trauma or shame from my throat area. 

I didn’t know what this trauma or shame was about but I once again internally repeated, “It is safe for me to let go all that which is no longer for my highest good.”  I did not have a reaction like this again, although I did have a boat load of deep inhalations/exhalations, some leg/foot twitches and a weird on again/off again itchy sensation in the palm of my right hand.

Once our session was finished, Shannon said memories or ‘stuff’ might come up for me to examine.  Boy howdy! I didn’t have to wait long. My first painful memory was about two hours after our session. I was minding my own business, doing my own thing when whammo!  At the time, I didn’t know what this was about as I hadn’t thought about this person or the event in years.   Then another memory not 24 hours later and this one was even more painful and happened years prior to the first one. Upon reflection, both these memories harbored shame and betrayal.

Why did I schedule an IET session in the first place? Because I wanted to see if it would help me get rid of my processed sugar cravings and help me break the addiction cycle. This was also my intention when I went into session so I know the return of these shelved memories are somehow tied to my addiction. 

One of the websites I researched said all the clearing/imprinting is done while IN session so a client doesn’t have to do any ‘work’ once they leave the session. But for me, I found myself examining these memories with a different set of eyes. I was left wondering why I hadn’t let the pain/shame/betrayal associated with them go as I believed I had. Perhaps these memories briefly reappeared to let me know the trauma surrounding them is leaving. Only time will tell.

(Melissa’s Note: Want more info on IET? You can contact, Shannon via FB or click on the website link above).

Jonesing

It occurred to me just the other day, after years and years and YEARS of bingeing on processed sugar (most specifically, anything chocolate), that I am an addict. I actually said those words out loud two weeks ago and I know it’s true.  I was out of control with my sugar consumption and when I say ‘out of control,’ I mean there is no earthly way I shouldn’t be in a sugar-induced coma.

Yes, processed sugar is HIGHLY addictive and highly dangerous. Some websites call it a major player in the spread of cancer. Evidently cancer cells thrive on processed sugar. Soon there will be a test that scans the body for accumulation of sugar and that will be a predictor of cancer. Oh my GOD. What am I DOING to my body?!

Sugar is my crutch. It’s my go to. It’s my energy when I’m exhausted, overly tired or stressed. It’s my salve when I’m in pain (emotional or physical). I tell myself I can stop with just one cookie and end up eating a BOX. Most recently I was on a junior mints and peanut turtles tangent. I found myself skipping meals and eating chocolate instead. I would justify my turtle consumption by telling myself it contained peanuts so I was getting something healthy, but I know better. I AM educated on this but I am also an addict whose hormones, routines and/or daily stressors get the better of me. When they do, I turn to my old comforting friend; processed, refined sugar.

As a child I remember eating sugar in the form of Kool-Aid, chocolate pudding and Pixy Stix candy. Some websites say I may have inherited my love (lust) for processed sugar while in the womb. I don’t doubt it. When I was born, I probably asked the doctor for a spoonful of sugar.

Here are some interesting facts about processed sugar (Huffpost Healthy Living):

  • 1.    It’s a major player in cancer growth.
  • 2.    Sugar can affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and brings about muscle protein changes that could lead to heart failure. Humm…so when I was stuffing my maw full of processed sugar and alcohol after a bad breakup, I was actually adding insult to injury to my broken heart.
  • 3.    Sugar can affect the aging of your brain AND body.
  • 4.    It targets your belly and adds fat directly to it.
  • 5.    Sugar can create chronic inflammation which is responsible for a host of medical issues ranging from arthritis, Alzheimer’s and heart attacks.

I was never much of a soda drinker, but I loved my sweets. Back in the day, I could eat all I wanted and remain the weight I desired to be. It was because I did some form of a workout (cardio and/or weights) 6 to 7 days a week and I didn’t eat all that well. It’s no fun cooking for one. Then came husband, baby and breastfeeding and I got used to eating extra (sugar) calories a day. When breastfeeding ended, my extra calorie consumption did not, my exercise was not like it was pre-baby and I gained weight.

The additional weight isn’t what bothers me; it’s what I’m doing to my body by uncontrollably eating this crap. I am a vegetarian for ethical and health reasons.  I take known inflammation reducers like pharmaceutical grade fish oil and extra vitamin C to combat the self-inflicted punishment. I’m trying to trick my mind into believing my sugar consumption will be less damaging because of this, but I know better.  It’s the same mentality I use to justify bingeing on chocolate that contain nuts.

I am keeping a daily diary this time around to document when I want chocolate and how I’m feeling when I do.  I’ve started my detox during a time when my body does not normally crave processed sugar in order to be past the intense cravings by the time it does crave sugar. I’ll journal for 30 days and I may publish it with the hopes others can read about my journey and recognize themselves in me.

I noticed the first two days I was off processed sugar, I had a hard time with my memory. I carried my water bottle into my gym class, sat it down and walked out to do something. Before returning to the room I thought, “Oh crap! I don’t have my water bottle. Is it in the car?” So I bundled up and went out to my car. Not there. Well, what the hell. Did I leave it at home? Crap. Double CRAP! As I was grousing inside my head, I had reentered the class and there was my water bottle, exactly where I had left it, right by my yoga mat. Hello!!!

My friend Shannon has offered some suggestions as to how to get through my sugar cravings. I guess cinnamon bark oil is a great help as is using healthy fats (coconut oil/avocados, etc.).  I don’t know. When I want chocolate, I want CHOCOLATE, not just something sweet.  I’m willing to give her suggestions a try, though. She’s been down this road a time or two as well.

I’m going to break routines I’ve established and create new ones. I’m going to watch my inclinations to turn to sugary food when I’m stressed, agitated or mentally bored and opt for something else.  I’ve got to take care of my body; it’s the only one I have and I need it to stay healthy. I’m not saying I wont eat processed sugar again as that’s completely unrealistic.  I’m saying I’ll introduce the word ‘moderation’ into my vocabulary and faze out the word ‘bingeing’.

Fabric Softeners

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I’m going off on a rant again and this time it’s about fabric softeners; most specifically the overpowering and overwhelming smell of some of them. Sheesh! I HATE the smell!! I am repulsed by these and other strong scents (perfumes, hairsprays, air fresheners, candles, etc.). Turns out, it might be my bodies way of warning me of the physical dangers these products contain.

I grew up with (unscented) fabric softeners and until I did research for this blog, I was still using them (although I’d switched to an eco-friendly, organic brand). I’d never once questioned why I should or shouldn’t use a softener or even WHY I was using them. If you wanted your laundry soft, you used a fabric softener. Right?

According to Natural News.com, fabric softeners are made up of a laundry list (pun intended!!!) of horrible toxins. Those toxins have been proven to cause cancer, Parkinson’s, yeast infections, fertility problems, asthma, headaches, and skin conditions (think rash or itching, etc.). These chemicals include (but are not limited to): Formaldehyde, Chloroform, A-Terpineo and Camphor.

Fetuses, babies and young children are incredibly sensitive to these highly toxic ingredients. These ingredients can cause brain damage, SIDs, ADD and depression.

Fabric softeners are designed to soften synthetic fabrics and to reduce static cling. Synthetic fabrics hold on to their odors so a softener was designed to cover up said odors. When synthetic fabrics are heated (think your workout tops), they become even more smelly.  But oddly, the laundry directions for most moisture wicking synthetic workout clothes specifically state to omit fabric softeners.

Fabric softeners are designed to last and to release slowly over a period of time. These toxic chemicals are coating your (and your children’s!) towels, sheets and clothing. We physically absorb these toxins through our skin and we also inhale them. Even if you don’t use a fabric softener, you can still be exposed to these chemicals by working with someone who does. That’s lovely, huh?

Something I didn’t know is cotton (think towels and sheets) is designed to naturally soften the more washings/dryings it receives. Well, leDUH (head slap)! Yes! That makes perfect sense. Think of the sheets you’ve had for years; soft as a baby’s bum, aren’t they? Or your favorite old blue jeans?  Yep. Good old cotton. It’s designed to be soft and yet we add fabric softener (made for synthetics!) to our rinse water. Egads!  What a genius marketing ploy!!

There are safer, non-fabric softener options which include:

·         Dry natural fabrics separately from synthetics. Natural fibers don’t develop static.  (Huh. I didn’t know this). Also, don’t allow clothes to dry completely in the dryer. Remove them while they are still slightly damp and hang them up to finish drying. The longer they remain in the dryer, the more static.

·         Green America suggests pre-soaking clothes in 1/2 cup of baking soda for 10 minutes if you have hard water. Baking soda acts as a natural fabric softener. (What?! Really??!)

·         Use natural laundry soaps with soy-based fabric softeners. (Soy fabric softeners?! Now I’ve heard everything!)

·         Chose products that are scent free (PLEASE! Ugh! The smell…THE SMELL!!) and don’t contain dyes.

·         You can make your own dryer sheets by soaking a small cloth in 1 tsp. of hair conditioner and letting it dry. Then, toss it in the dryer to remove static.

·         You can also add 1/2 cup of the old workhorse white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

·         Lastly, use chemical-free dryer balls to fluff fibers and remove static cling.

You want ways to be proactive with your health? Eliminating unnecessary toxins in the form of fabric softeners is a good way to start.

North Star (part 2)

My most recent blog, North Star (Part 1) may have left you feeling like Debbie Downer. I promised you we’d create your “I’m SO on my right path” scenario in the next blog.

Same song, different verse. Ready? 

1.  Nuclear Energy – List three things that can always get you moving (i.e. golf game, supper with the girls, a Reiki session with Melissa).  Circle the response that makes you feel the most enthusiastic.

A.

B.

C. 

2.  To Your Health – Try to remember a time in your life when your health seemed better than usual.  What was going on in your life at the time?  Circle the situation that has the most positive associations for you.

A.

B.

C. 

3.  Memories, Light the corners of my mind……  Where’s your super memory? If you can’t remember, ask friends or loved ones what they’ve noticed about your ability to pick up certain categories of information (i.e.  math, acting, learning, singing, nutrition, helping others – stuff that ‘seems’ to come naturally or easily for you). Circle the type of information that interests you the most.

A.

B.

C. 

4.  Time Warp – List three types of activities that make you forget what time it is (i.e. you’re enjoying them so much, you literally forget what time it is – – – crafting, reading, shopping, etc.).  Circle the activity you find most absorbing.

A.

B.

C.

5.  Emotional Intelligence – Name three people who make you feel socially adept and confident.  These are people who seem to understand you and enjoy spending time with you.  Circle the name of the person who makes you feel the most comfortable and relaxed.

A.

B.

C. 

6.  Magnetic Attraction – List three times when you’ve felt strangely drawn to a person, place or thing.  You may have temporarily become unable to concentrate on anything/anyone else.  Circle the one thing that brings up the most positive feelings.

A.

B.

C.  

7.  A Natural High – List three times you experienced a wonderful mood, particularly if your good mood came at a strange time or from an action other people may have criticized.  Circle the situation that makes you feel the happiest.

A.

B.

C. 

Now to the good stuff!! Let’s create your POSITIVE or Best-Case Scenario.  Review your answers above and in the words of Jackie Gleason, “and away we go!”

It’s an incredibly beautiful day.  The air is clear, the scenery is dazzling and you’re setting out to do (#1 – High energy activity) ___________________ with (#5 – your favorite person) ______________________________________.  You’ve no other responsibilities, no immediate deadlines and no major problems weighing you down.  You feel great, even better than you did back when you were (#2 – your best health situation) _______________________________.  In fact, you’re in the best physical shape of your life: strong, lean, robust and full of energy. 

You’re having a great conversation about (3 – the information you remember most easily) _______________________ when a message arrives for you.  It’s a letter from the President saying you’ve been chosen to receive a lifetime of financial support for doing (#4 – the activity that makes you forget time) ________________________.  This will require you to spend a lot of time with (#6 – the person or situation that creates the ‘urge to merge.’) ______________________.  You feel just the way you did when (#7 – your best mood setting) __________________________ happened only more so. 

Sit with this. Take in the feelings associated with this scenario and enjoy knowing this is how you’re going to spend the rest of your life. Uh uh uh! Don’t rush though this… keep enjoying it.

OK, now you can give me a chaaaCHING!!!  Who’s with me??!  ‘Hum on! ChaaaCHING!

Now, notice how you FEEL (yes, there’s that word again!). THIS is what it’s like when you’re ‘in the flow’ or ‘following your bliss’ or as the book’s title would indicate ‘following your North Star (soul)’.  In truth, the instant I made my leap without a net (quitting a job without another in place), I was hit by this type of euphoria.

As my future became my past, it was evident why it felt so liberating to do what I did even though it scared the BLEEP out of me.  Finding my own internal North Star has made a hugely positive difference in my life. What will it do for yours?   

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North Star (part 1)

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I was recently reading (I know how to do that. It’s math that’s tricky for me) an article about what book changed your life. I have one of those books I’d like to share with you. Without it, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to do what I did or become the person I am.  

The book, “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck was the inspiration I needed to quit a job before I had another lined up. Not a big deal for some of you but for this girl, it simply was NOT done. I had rent to pay, groceries to buy and two parents who had ingrained in me the absolute need to get another job before quitting the current one.

I was 40 when I read this book and made the leap without a safety net. Looking back, there WAS a job waiting, I just couldn’t see it yet. It was called Inner Focus Reiki.

The following exercise is designed to evaluate your ‘essential self’ as Martha calls it. See where you are in your life by taking the following “I’m completely in HELL” exercise.  I’ll blog the “I’m SO on my correct path” exercises later.

There is so much more to this book but hopefully this experiment will help open your eyes, even if they are squeezed tightly shut.  Like I said, it was life changing for me.

1.  Energy Crisis – Try to remember three different events or type of events (i.e. dental appointments, jobs, classes, social functions, etc.) where you HAD to show up but felt reluctant and low-energy.  Circle the response that has the most negative association for you.

A.

B.

C.

2.  Sick, Sick, Sick – Try to remember three times when your health was below par.  What was going on in your life during each of these three periods? List each situation (they can be the same as in Energy Crisis) AND the physical symptoms you suffered.  Circle the worst symptom.

A.                                                        Symptom:

B.                                                        Symptom:

C.                                                        Symptom:

3.  Forgetting – Write down three types of information you find difficult to remember (example: people’s names, school schedules, important documents). Circle the type of information you forget most often.

A.

B.

C.

4. Blunders o’ Blunders – Write down three stupid mistakes you remember making.  Circle the most disastrous mistake.

A.

B.

C.

5.  Social Suicide – Name three people who bring out your very WORST social behavior (like every time you’re around this person you feel like a complete ass, you revert to being a child or you need a complete lobotomy).

A.

B.

C.

6.  Fight or Flight – List the times when you couldn’t sleep, slept poorly or slept so much you felt groggy or squalid (squalid? Uh, OK).  List the three problems in your life that cause sleep dis-order.  Circle the issue that most disrupted your sleep.

A.

B.

C.

7.  Addiction – Name ONE (yes, only one) bad habit or obsessive pattern you’ve been unable to eliminate (for me, it’s biting my nails.  Hey! I only had to pick ONE of them!).  Now remember what happened to trigger this bad habit the last three times you fell off the wagon.  For example, for me, it’s overwhelming stress that I feel I have too much on my plate and I’m not talkin’ dinner plate. Circle the trigger that is most likely to make you turn to your addictive habit.

A.

B.

C.

8.  Moody Blues – List the last three times you experienced a VERY bad mood or a mood that seemed inexplicable, unjustifiable or extreme.  Again, note what was happening in your life at the time these moods occurred.  Circle the one that brought out your worst mood.

A. 

B.

C.

You did it!!! That’s it for the questions. Now comes the ‘fun’ part which is getting your essential self (or soul) to speak to you.  Go back and review the items you’ve circled. It’s fill in the blank time, boys and girls. And this isn’t gonna be pretty.    Ready?  Take a big gulp of air………

YOUR OWN WORST CASE SCENARIO:

Imagine for a moment that you are in/at (response from #1 – lowest-energy situation) ________________________________. You are surrounded by (#5 – all THREE names on your list) ________________________________________ You’re not feeling your best, in fact, your (#2 – worst medical symptom) ______________________________ is bothering you more than ever.  You’ve been given a lifetime assignment that involves working with (#3 – most forgettable information) ________________________.

All the people in the room are authorized to watch you constantly, criticize your performance and punish you if you make any mistakes.  Speaking of mistakes, you’ve just done (#4 – stupidest mistake) ______________________________ a fact that was noted by your three supervisors.  Your life in general is pretty difficult right now; that whole thing with (#6 – sleep disturbances) ________________ is happening all over again.  You’re also trying to deal with (#7 – worst bad habit trigger) ___________________________. To top it ALL off, (#8 – bad mood situation) ___________________________ is more intense than ever.

Just when things are at their worst ________________ (#5 – the person who makes you the most uncomfortable) walks up.  He/she orders you to stand up, politely smile in a way that is both humble and worshipful and say to the entire assembly, “I admire you so much.  Thank you, THANK YOU for letting me be here.  You are such a terrific person and this is just what I deserve.  I want to live this way for the rest of my life!” 

Gaaahhhhh!!!!

How about that?!  How ABOUT that?! Feeling like kaka?!  If you can vividly imagine this horrible situation, you’re experiencing your own blend of anger, despair, illness, etc. It doesn’t feel good, does it?

Are your eyes opening? Are you learning anything about what you essentially need?  This book clearly states no one is supposed to EVER feel this way.  EVER!!!  And yet we do, don’t we America?

Think about this scenario for a while or until you throw up, whichever comes first.  I’ll work on Part 2 (it’s much better, I promise) and you’ll see (pun intended) where I’m going.

BMI

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I’m all fired up over the archaic BMI (Body Mass Index) system because it directly and negatively affects us. My hunky body builder of an Adonis husband is considered overweight by medical standards. He’s within an arms reach of being deemed as obese. He has approximately 10% body fat. Should I repeat that? Yes, I shall. He has approximately 10% body fat. 

Let me give you a visual. Watch the Minnesota Vikings? Agile, athletic and muscular Adrian Peterson is considered overweight according to BMI scale. Like movies? Let’s look at (yes, please!) Sylvester Stallone’s chiseled well defined physique during his “Rambo” days. According to the BMI scale, he was considered OBESE.

Part of the problem is the BMI scale was never designed to evaluate an individual’s weight. According to an article in Mens Health, it was created to measure the collective weight of an entire population. It was developed so doctors and insurance companies would have an easy tool that could predict…get this…. an early death based on weight.

Originally, there was supposed to be a male and female designation, too. Different calculations were to be used for each gender but that distinction was tossed by the wayside. Now, I’m not a Rhodes Scholar, but it seems kind of simple to me – ‘Y’ chromosomes get this formula and ‘X’ chromosomes get this one.

So how did we go from something that was designed to be used en masse to judging individuals? Well, in large part it’s because of its uncomplicated math (math…eyes rolling in the back of my head…..drooling….. Must. Snap. Out. Of. It.) and its four no-brainer categories (underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese). Simple it is. Accurate it is not.

To the topic of the day: Why are we still using this inaccurate system?!!  Plain and simple, one of the main reasons is the numbers aren’t dangerous. But, as in our case, they CAN be expensive.  When we recently applied for life insurance my husband was classified as overweight. This throws my obsessively faithful gym rat into a higher rate/risk category.  It should be noted that several websites I viewed stated the BMI scale should not be used with weight lifters!! Cha! I’m sayin’!  

Yeah, sure, doctors/life insurance companies can take other measurements to determine a person’s risk factors but they aren’t perfect either. For instance, if you just measure a person’s waist, you’re measuring specific fat.  You are not taking into account the weight of the person’s lean muscle mass.

There is ‘talk’ of testing for a hormone called Leptin that is secreted by body fat. Research is showing this to be an inexpensive way to determine if you are underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

My husband had an idea: A simple metal caliper. He might just be on to something. (Notice I stopped short of saying, “He’s got a good idea” as that might wreck my street cred.)  According to Livestrong.com, “under ideal conditions, caliper tests predict fat percentage within plus or minus 3.5 percent of your true body composition.”

I wasn’t able to find an accuracy percentage for the BMI test as it…oh yeah, that’s right, doesn’t calculate your body fat percentages. Sigh. Can you feel my (pocketbook) pain??