Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thank You Thursday

Dear Carrots,

Thank you so much for literally improving my husband's eye sight. He's been wearing glasses since he was in high school. Sometime in 2007 or 2008 (hard to remember exactly when) I started making him a sack lunch to take to work, a lunch which included fresh carrots. I don't mean to take the credit here because he ate those carrots faithfully.

Over the past several years he's used his glasses less and less and hasn't really bothered to go to the eye doctor until just yesterday. And only then because he's about to start a new job and wanted to know if he needed to get eye insurance. He came home and reported that his vision has improved and he no longer needs glasses.

How does a 39 year old man suddenly have better vision? It's too big of a coincidence that this improvement happened after regular consumption of carrots. The doctor did tell him that because of his age he would likely need reading glasses in the next 5 years to so. I say, let's keep eating carrots and see if that's true or not.

Let food be thy medicine.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whimsy Wednesday

This is about the funniest thing I've seen online in a very long time. Having grown up with and loving lots of cats AND dogs it really hit home. 

Have you ever had any of these things happen to you :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adventures in Verapamil

For the past two months I've been taking Verapamil. My migraine doc put me on it as a preventative and, even though I've not yet reached the end of my three months trial period, I know it isn't the answer. Verapamil is a blood pressure lowering medication. The trouble is that my blood pressure tends to run low anyway so you can imagine how lowering it further is an unwanted effect.

The longer I've been on it the worse I've felt. Between the added fatigue, constantly feeling light headed and inability to concentrate, I wouldn't want to stay on it even if it was decreasing my migraines. I say that only partly because the trade off wouldn't be worth it but mostly because I don't see how blood pressure this low is anything but dangerous. 

Another migraine preventative down. Each failed preventative leaves me feeling increasingly entrenched in these wretched migraines. I'm working hard to focus on the positive here. There are still other meds to try. And even if none of them work, I'll be okay. I am getting better at coping with all of this. I am okay. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Trying To Move On

I have a nemesis.

While it may be perfectly normal to like some people more than others it is neither healthy nor productive to actively dislike somebody, to spend precious time and energy on said dislike. Yet, even sitting in that knowledge, I'm doing it. It's not like me, but I'm doing it. I don't do this with other people I don't like, but I'm doing it with this one. I'm not sure why but I'm doing it. I am certain she has no idea how I feel about her and she probably wouldn't care if she know.

She just isn't a good person. The social worker in me finds her world view shows a complete lack of understanding and empathy for the complexities of the human condition. I find the fact that she is a teacher scary. She is deeply offensive and unkind to everyone except the handful of people she has deemed worthy. She's a smug, self-important little brat.

Now I know she is not the only person in the world like this and I know that she isn't all bad. But the bad parts make me dislike her. The fact that I take it as personally as I do is because she is now married to my cousin, who is one of the most likable people around. I hate that she is now family. But it's not like I have to see much of her. They live in Maryland and since she's deemed our side of the family unworthy she's making sure their visiting efforts center around her side of the family. Besides it's not like she married my brother.

Still, disliking her has almost become a mini-hobby. I read her facebook posts because I know I can count on her to give me more reasons to dislike her. I am always ready to verbally bash her. Part of me even looks forward to giving her the cold shoulder and crook eye when I see her next and I don't even know when that would be.

I wish I knew what it is about her that has brought out this ugliness in me. Even more I wish I could figure out how to stop doing it. Part of me thinks if I could figure out why I actively dislike her and nobody else I could let go easier. But I suppose at this point it may just be a habit. Maybe I should start by blocking her facebook posts from my newsfeed. Then maybe I can come up with a backup topic to think or talk about when she pops into my head or comes up in conversation.

Have you ever actively disliked somebody? What did you do about it?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chemical Free Project 2.1

The slow removal of chemicals from my home ran into a bit of a snag. You may remember my 2nd project was to use a chemical free dishwasher detergent. Online I was able to find that most of the recipes were basically the same with equal parts washing soda and borax and vinegar in the rinse receptacle. It was easy and the 1st load went well. After the 2nd load I noticed a film forming on the dishes. After the 3rd load the film was worse and I headed back online to see what was wrong.

Turns out this is pretty typical. These natural dishwasher detergents all seem to have this same problem of leaving a film behind. This was a deal breaker for me. My research did uncover dishwasher detergents have varied degrees of toxicity. The generic Target brand, Up and Up detergent actually rated well. As luck would have it, that's what I had been using before and what I have since returned to.

Project 2.1 was born out of necessity. I was running quite low on my face cleanser (Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleaners). Using a new face cleaner is a scary prospect for me. My skin is sensitive, oily, dry and prone to break-outs. That's right I said oil and dry. My skin can be both super shiny with oil WHILE AT THE SAME TIME flaking and stinging like it's dry. I wash it twice a day because it is so oily and then immediately apply moisturizers to combat the puckering of the dry skin. 

I found all kinds of great recipes online and was glad to see that most had variations that accounted for different types of skin needs. The first recipe I tried was honey, castile soap and glycerin. It actually seemed to work pretty well but the smell bothered me. The castile soap and glycerin are odor free products but the honey was hitting my nose funny so after just 3 uses I decided to try something else. 

Here is the recipe I've been using all this week:
1/4 Cup liquid castile soap
1/4 Cup organic chamomile tea
3/4 t oil (grapeseed, sweet almond, avocado or olive - I used olive)
8 drops of essential oil (I used lemon)
few drops of Vitamin E oil is optional. 

Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea and set aside 1/4 cup to cool completely. Then mix the rest of ingredients in with the cooled tea. Should keep fresh for 2 weeks.

It was super easy and, best of all, I like the way it works. I will pick out a new essential oil when I  go to Whole Foods next but in the meantime the lemon will work. My skin isn't nearly as dry after a washing as it was with my store bought product so I'm not putting as much moisturizer on. This homemade cleanser is thinner than my other cleanser so I am putting it on a baby washcloth and applying it to my face with that. So far so good. For now I'm going to continue using this new tea cleanser and maybe reassess come summer.

Next up: all-purpose cleaner.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Whimsy Wednesday

This week's whimsy comes again from Saturday Night Live with Anne Hathaway.

The Girlfriends Talk Show is a good clean laugh. Hope it brings you a smile today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Style and Practicality

In a continuing effort to downsize and simplify my life I've been putting some thought into my wardrobe. Even after getting rid of several bags of clothes a few months back I still have a number of items that I don't really wear and am not really sure why I keep. Sounds like an easy fix, right? Just get rid of the items that don't get worn and I certainly will, but before doing anything I want to back up and re-approach my wardrobe with more intention.

Now I've heard that you should have a style icon(s) and that should help direct your wardrobe decisions. I've also heard that if you want to build a lasting wardrobe you should stick with mostly classic choices instead of trends. Sounds like great advice.

Having never thought about a style icon before I started looking at pictures of celebrities who appeal to me, finding one who stood out style wise: Keri Russell.

Love the structured, well fitted, casual yet put together feel of her style. Sometimes with a bit of a bohemian edge. Classic, yet age appropriate and fresh. It helps that we are about the same age and of similar body type. These are the kinds of looks I would like to wear when out and about and feeling not-so-bad.

Of course, as a migrainista, this doesn't happen all that often. Most of the time I'm in my comfy coping clothes. I'm not at all ready to adjust this part of my wardrobe but after seven years of chronic pain maybe it's time my wardrobe ratio is more reflective of the way my time is spent. Right now my comfy clothes only make up about 1/3 of my wardrobe but get about 90% of the use.

Time to start getting rid of items. Not only the items that I never wear but also the ones that don't really fit into the style I want to achieve. A handful of these items are really nice and barely used so I can consign them and redirect them into something more classic for myself.

Do you have a style icon?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thank You Thursday

Dear Leak In The Wall,

It took us a long time to figure out where you were, but we found you. We found you in the best possible place, a pipe that services not only us but also the two units above us. Thank you so much for being in a common pipe! What a huge relief.

If you had been in a pipe that only services our condo we would be financially responsible. If you had been in a pipe that only services one of the condos above us, we would have had to go after them ourselves for the fix and the damages to our unit. Instead, you were on a pipe that services 3 units, which means the condo association will be paying for fix and for the damage. Such a huge relief!

Sure, we won't be able to do laundry until the plumber can get here but that's a small price to pay for not having to pay a monetary price. This fact puts me in the right frame of mind to be slightly amused by the cause of the leak. Apparently one of the base board nails was placed directly into the pipe when the building was first built 30 years ago. There it sat, holding the base board AND plugging the hole through every load of laundry done in 3 condos, year after year. Until one day it was rusted enough to start leaking.

Come on, what are the chances.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Whimsy Wednesday

Today is all about the laughter. Here is a great sketch from Saturday Night Live: Mokiki Does the Sloppy Swish.

It's a touch of creepy but catchy and fun anyway. I actually want to stand up and try it myself:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mind Game.

Over the weekend I got to thinking that coping with chronic pain is about so much more than the things I do. I often talk about distracting myself with comedy and pacing myself and trying not to put so much pressure on myself to do the things I used to be able to do. And these are certainly actionable steps that I take to cope but I think the more important coping mechanism is in the brain.

Far too frequently my own thoughts have been the biggest enemy to optimal living. I get bogged down in negative thoughts, in all the scary "what if" scenarios. This all leads to feeling depressed, overwhelmed and incapable of moving forward or doing much of anything.

I believe in the power of the mind and armed with that belief I went ahead and started telling myself more positive things. Instead of telling myself that I'm a financial drain on my husband and that I don't have much to offer our little family I started telling myself that I am a valuable partner who brings a lot to our relationship and to our family.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't as easy as that. I didn't believe it for a long time. So I started saying it out loud and started getting more specific, thinking about all the things that I can still do and how those things impact our relationship and our family. Slowly I started to really believe these things. And as these positive thoughts began to take hold I realized how they conflicted with all my negative ones, resulting in fewer and fewer of the negative ones.

The struggle between which thoughts predominate any given hour is continuous. On the good days, it's easy to think positive and several days into a bad run it's very difficult and I'm not always successful. I still have days when I feel depressed, defeated and overwhelmed. The difference now is that it doesn't last as long and it isn't as hard to crawl my way out. It's a mind game for sure, a hard one at that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

3 Small Goals

Picking up my prescription refills at the pharmacy today I was reminded that this is indeed a new year as my very large deductible reset. As I continued on with my grocery shopping I started thinking about how I want to approach my migraines in 2013.

Nothing I've tried so far has had any impact on my migraines and, after about 7 years, I don't have much faith that anything will. What I'm really focused on at this time is figuring out how to better cope with them and live the best I can. 

The first thing I want to do is get a new primary care physician. I got lucky on Christmas day having a conversation with my cousin-in-law about her doctor. Turns out she and her husband see docs who practice both eastern and western medicine, they know about nutrition and have tools other pills and they are under the umbrella of one of the major hospitals in the area. Sounds exactly like what I'm looking for. She has graciously passed along the contact info and I'll be calling for an appointment on Monday. I really need a local partner in health.

The second thing I want to do this year is decrease my exposure to chemicals and the smells that come with them. I'm doing this for several reason and my migraines are just part of that. But, with all the heightened sensitivities these migraines have ushered in, it stands to reason that eliminating most of the chemicals I regularly encounter couldn't hurt - and hopefully help.

The third thing I want to do is focus more on my muscle relaxation. My muscles continue to be a daily struggle. I just have not been able to get them to calm down. I really need to dedicate myself to that more in 2013 because I know it is part of the larger pain problem. 

In an effort to keep things simple I'm going to stick to these three things for now. 

Are you planning on changing your approach to your migraines in 2013?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thank You Thursday

Dear Neighbors,

Thank you for being the kind of people who not only fail to pick up after your dogs and stand right outside the door and smoke, but you are also the kind of people who carelessly toss your used condoms into the common grass around the complex. Could you be more disgusting?

Was some unsavory couple having an encounter in a parked car and just tossed it out the window when they were done, or did they go at it right there in the grass in full view of the any residents and the street? The not knowing makes it oh so much fun. Well, that and happening upon it on the afternoon walk with Gypsy.

We're so lucky to have top shelf neighbors like these.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Whimsy Wednesday

Far to often these days I don't pay enough attention to the things that stir my soul. The collective noise of all the pain and domestic tasks occupy so much of my brain power, time and energy that I end up going months at a time without balancing out my pragmatism with the whimsy, passion, intensity and beauty of art.

Occasionally I'm reminded of how neglectful I've been towards this side of me. I promise myself I'll do better and almost immediately am again swept into the same pattern of neglect. I used to do these things regularly and naturally but I now realize things are just too different. There is plenty of blame to go around too: chronic pain, lack of time/energy, being married... If I truly want to feed this side of myself, which I do, the time has come to develop a system of regular attention to it. 

To that end I've decided to start Whimsy Wednesday, highlighting things that stir or feed the whimsical side of this migrainista. 

Today's whimsy may not be traditional but has always stirred me. November Rain by Guns N' Roses:

Normally I'm not a Guns N' Roses fan but I have loved this song and this video since the first time I heard/saw it back in the day. The big picture is both passionate, exciting and heartbreaking. But more specifically I love all the heavy guitar (especially the solos), the use of orchestra, the way the song turns 7 minutes in, they build intensity with layered chaos. It's a feast for the ears and the soul. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Another Bug

Just in time for a mid-winter warm up here in the greater St. Louis area I'm getting sick again. Standing on the starting line I've decided to not take it too seriously unless and until it wipes me out. Normally when I start feeling sick I lay extra low in an attempt to lesson the length and severity of whatever bug has taken hold, especially if there is something big coming up that I want to do. 
Not knowing if this is an effective strategy or not, I've decided to try something different this time. I'm just going to go about business as normal. Well, normal for me anyway with all the pacing and such. So far, as the day has progressed so has the bug. Perhaps there is simply nothing that can be done when getting sick.

On the upside, many shows are starting to run new episodes again: The Bachelor, Daily Show, Revenge, Downton if only Mad Men would come back.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chemical Free Project #1

The weekend was a tough one. Pain dominated both days and rendered me mostly useless. But I had a goal, just one thing I really wanted to get done, and I did. I made and used an all natural laundry detergent. Here's how it went.

I started by putting 4 cups of water in a large old pot I would NOT even think about cooking food in. Then adding 1 bar of natural soap all chopped up. I heated and stirred it until the soap was all melted/dissolved into the water.
Then I added 11 Liters of water to one of those big 5 gallon buckets, along with 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of washing soda and the soapy/water mixture from the stove.
Then I stirred the mixture up. Once the borax and washing soda were dissolved the mixture had amilky liquidy gel like consistency, which meant it was done.

Super easy. Then it was time to give it a try. I decided to try the sheets first. I added about 1/3 of a cup of my homemade detergent and let it rip.

To my delight it went well. The sheets came out of the washer with no scent but yet clean. I put them through the dryer as usual and honestly they were just as clean and fresh as every other washing I had done with Tide. So I washed a load of darks, same thing. The next day I did a load of towels. I'm happy to report that all loads went equally well. Considering how cheap it was to make this HUGE bucket of detergent and how well it worked, I can't imagine I'll ever buy laundry detergent again.

The success of this switch has added fuel to my efforts to cut back on the amount of chemicals I use in 2013. I think my next project will be finding something to put in the dishwasher. To be continued...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter Pick-Me-Up

Having recuperated from the holidays I've now begun motivating myself with health and food related documentaries. Doing this has become something of a tradition over the past few years, a way of fueling my days and focusing my mind on something positive. These are the ones I've enjoyed so far:

These are all available on Netflix's instant streaming service.

Have you seen any good documentaries lately? I would love to hear any suggestions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Clean-Up

The annual Christmas clean-up is under way. I spent a big chunk of the day taking down the tree and other various decorations that festively adored our place for the past month. 
 It starts off as just a big old mess.
 And very slowly things get neatly tucked away in totes.
 Until the rooms begin to look positively empty by comparison.
While I'll have to wait for my husband to get home to finish the final bit of garland, there are very few traces of Christmas left. 

The whole project was carefully supervised by sweet little Gypsy from the comfort under the blanket on the couch. And since it took me 4 hours I have decided to join her under that blanket to rest until dinner. She's always up for cuddling.