all posts, miscellaneous

happy nonsensical non-sequiturs for winter

three brown wooden letters wall decor
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I know usually I have this whole elaborate set-up of a theme that then ties back to eczema or life with eczema, but today I am just winging it. Today I feel like chatting about all the little random things that have been going on since it’s a new month and the winter season is basically in full effect here as it hit below 20 degrees Fahrenheit the other day!

I guess the first big change to announce is that we are moving! We’ve put our home on the market and we are just waiting to see who bites before we take a chance and move to try living nearer to Jake’s work (re: into the city). This will be the first time I live in a city proper, and though we don’t plan to buy, and don’t plan to live there too long, it feels like it’ll be an adventure of its own.

Though it seems like an impromptu change, we’ve been talking about it for a while and we realize it will help improve our health in a number of ways. One, the commute to Jake’s work is a nightmare (almost 2 hours one way now), and the traffic even in our town, which is a fair distance from the major city, almost always is brutal, even just trying to drive to our grocery store. Today we started looking into studies about how commutes can impact quality of life. Multiple studies indicate that longer commutes increase adipose tissue, blood pressure, and more, and not just because of driving entailing sitting for a long time. This older NPR article was a fun read about how to be happy where you live, as well as how humans can get used to all kinds of factors: cold weather, higher taxes, etc, all much more easily than they can adjust to traffic.

Then another reason for our desire to move besides the commute is that our neighborhood is lovely, but it is a bit difficult to navigate by foot, which tends to be my preferred mode of transportation. Trying to walk around the neighborhood with Fiona means me wandering along quite a few hilly roads with no sidewalks and drivers that often zoom by blindly unaware of my approach, or me getting my choice of which dead-end road I want to traverse and then reverse back up, and me encountering few neighbors because the local stores and community areas are QUITE a hike for me to tote a baby to right now, especially with the temperature drop. Not being able to roam is definitely making me into a hermit and decreasing my NEAR and exposure to outdoor weather.

So in short we are moving (or rather, prepped and ready to move as soon as we close the house sale). When we do close, Fiona will be driving us to our new place as she has been taking lessons with dad:

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 9.48.13 AM

We’ve also been trying to create other ways to help improve our health including getting into more herbs and pickled things. We are trying to work on increasing our micronutrients in our diet, and my foray into herbs (beyond the seasonings we put on food already) has started with tea. I came across this recipe from Commonwealth Herbs for gut health and I am enjoying it immensity. You drink a quart a day, and each quart has 2 tablespoons of the herbal mix. I followed the basic mix, which includes chamomile, ginger, fennel, licorice, plantain calendula, and peppermint.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 9.49.07 AM

I also have been getting into using this frother stick thing that Jake got me that makes me instant “latte” foam. My newest “milk” that I’m experimenting with for my lattes is hemp milk and I love it. It’s got a weird aroma that reminds me of marshmallows in hot chocolate and those Vienna brand finger cookies from my Poppop’s house back in the day. On that note I also think it would be delicious on top of some hot chocolate… but I’ll try that another day.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 9.47.54 AM

Speaking of tea, I got that mug at Marshall’s the other day (because I’m trying to make a collection of eclectic mugs), among other things- things mostly gnome-themed. I do love me some gnomes. I’ve been making this joke a lot, but it’s starting to look like Gnomemas in our house. We got a standing gnome to guard the front door that is currently taller than Fiona, a gnome-themed blanket for me to use in our TV room when I get chilled, and this lovely gnome couch pillow (shown below). Not to mention my personal travel gnome, Schmebulon Junior (I’ll be impressed if anyone knows what that name is in reference to). All in all I’m feeling festive!

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 9.48.54 AM

Also I got Jake into the spirit, so he co-decided to get this runner for our dining room table, along with a little tree plant, and I got this weird looking wooden polar bear.

2018-12-06 10.17.06.jpg

And of course we’ve started amassing presents. Though to be honest, most of them are belated birthday presents for my sister who I haven’t seen since the summer!!

2018-12-06 10.17.02.jpg

We have yet to get the tree though and we still have yet to put up lights, but we are getting there!! Projects for the weekend.

Speaking of gifts and “tis the season”… I am now the proud owner of The Lord of the Rings all-in-one trilogy book. Jake and I are still working on developing our ‘winter season is Tolkien season’ tradition and this is starting it off! I am quite excited though I do still have 7 library books to finish off before I can delve into only Tolkien.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 9.49.17 AM

And lastly, the other day when we were out and about during an our open house, my family trio went to Salem and explored. My eyes fell upon this little guy and it was love at first sight: Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 9.49.31 AM

It’s a heating/cooling pad that can be put in the microwave or freezer respectively to get it the desired temperature. I am always cold so I love warming him up and throwing him over my neck. Ahh, it doesn’t get much better. And the fact that it’s shaped like a sheep is just another plus as I love sheep things as much as I love gnomes.

But how does it all relate back to eczema? Well, this time of the year can be incredible rough to the lay-skin person (my word for a person with intact epidermal layers). It’s getting dark around 4pm, there is less sunlight overall so we all can become vitamin D deficit more easily, the cold makes all skin dryer and heating systems do the same, and the holidays are spread out enough that everyone feels like we are just sprinting to make it to the next one. Now add that disastrous skin barrier and generally a weakened immune system when people tend to spread sicknesses around the most, and we have a recipe for months of frustration. That’s where the winter cheer and enjoying the little things really becomes so important. I have been trying to throw myself into the little warming moments like seeing my little one in an elf hat, or getting a heating pad in the shape of a sheep, or making challenges with my husband to do 30 consecutive days of walking outside together even if it’s freezing outside. Obviously I can’t control the temperature of all buildings or always keep myself warm, so instead it becomes important to focus on the fun: those day to day minute tokens that can create a lovely atmosphere all around, and buffer the time in between when we can go spend the holidays with our family. The overarching goal is de-stressing via just enjoying life, and embracing seasonality and festivities personally really helps.

If you are feeling winter weather blues, I advise giving it a go. Dress your house up with small things that embrace your chosen beliefs or just the weather (like burning pine and fir candles or decorating with snowmen and colors like blue and white, evergreen and touches of bright red. Drink hot beverages of choice (tea, hot cocoa, mulled wines, hot toddies), and make time to spend moments with people you love. Get outside to feel the bitter chill bite your cheeks, just to make coming back inside feel so nice as you thaw again. Read a seasonal book, watch a seasonal movie, or listen to some seasonal music, while ensconced in thick and warm home blankets. Take warm baths with whatever your choice of salts and scents are, garb yourself in colorful scarves and hats and mittens, and see how you feel. Make this time special and memorable and let me know if it makes winter and your skin feel a bit more bearable.

 

REFERENCES

Hoehner CM, Barlow CE, Allen P, Schootman M. Commuting Distance, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Metabolic Risk. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Jun 1; 42(6): 571-578.

“How to ‘Thrive’: Short Commutes, More Happy Hours.” NPR: Talk of the Nation, https://www.npr.org/2013/02/18/171926131/how-to-thrive-short-commutes-more-happy-hours. Accessed 6 Dec 2018.

all posts, miscellaneous

thankful for eczema?

art birds business card
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy late Thanksgiving!! Though I thought about doing a post earlier in the day, I preferred to spend the time loafing around with some of my loved ones, so instead you’ll have to contend with me rambling on about what I’m thankful for during these last few minutes of the day.

First off, what I am most thankful for is my family and friends (who are essentially non-blood family). I love their colorful personalities and wouldn’t turn back the clock and try to change any moment in my life if it was at the risk of not having all my people here in my life. Now with that clarified, it’s onto explaining the title of the post.

Though it is currently driving me to take a daily bleach baths and use antihistamines, in some ways I do find myself thankful for having had to experience eczema. That statement alone may seem crazy given how much my skin drives me nuts, but not as mich when I de-focus my minute experiences and look deeper as to where my eczema journey as a whole is leading me.

Because in actuality what it has led to is me here in this moment thinking long-term about:

  • what plan of action to take next with my skin (when I’m done breastfeeding Fi)
  • if Jake and I will want another biological baby one day (a thought we ponder given that many newer treatments that target genes and whatnot have not been tested for long term effects), and
  • on all manner of futuristic positivity (like “this flare will pass”, “I can use this time to really focus on writing and on building up my women’s health knowledge for future career directions”).

I continue to find myself thirsty for knowledge, and subsequently scouring the world for new research studies done, as well as comparing and contrasting the results to better inform myself about options available, which I then use to create a skin plan (post on that coming soon).

But what in particular am I thankful for that eczema has “given” me? Primarily four things:

  1. Perspective. I have not only learned to be more aware when all systems are go and my skin is more functional, but also that I can understand the limits of various aspects of medicine, understand the desire of people to offer their suggestions for alleviation, and understand that I may never know my specific causes or triggers but I have to learn to deal regardless.
  2. Resilience. This has developed from having to fight for new normalcy without seeing the finish line of my efforts, as well as from having to learn to deal with visibly not looking normal but not always being able to hide away until I feel better.
  3. Flexibility (of mind). I have been forced to change my approaches and my attitude around living with a disease that is still being researched and has no known cause, and
  4. Bravery. I’ve been provoked to be seek out ways to help spread my experience and open up about my life via a medium I always wanted to pursue but was too afraid to previously.

This has been a challenging and weird journey, and continues to be so, but I am getting through as best as I can and finding new side quests along the way that almost make it feel worth it. Speaking of side quests, that reminds me of this meme:

1fl13i

What about eczema or your own battles are you thankful for today (or any day)?

all posts, community, miscellaneous

hot flashes with a side of holidays

close up creepy dark darkness
Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Happy belated Halloween! Yes, I know I’m a day late but I’m including other holidays to pad my belated holiday post.

I started writing this at 3am on Halloween, and boy was I feeling it. I’d say I was doing about as well as an old cracking, stiff black leather couch on a dry heat kind of day when hot human flesh sprawls on top it (aka I was both drying out and exuding an uncomfortable amount of heat). To compound that, Fi kept waking up around every 2 hours, and it takes me at least 15-45 minutes to go back to sleep after she’s cared for, so deep healing sleep was not in my repertoire the other night, folks.

And so, instead of sleeping, I got all ready to chat about my once favorite holiday, Halloween. Did I mention how I absolutely love to dress up (or did before my skin started raging against the machine that is my body)? Anyway, I truly believe this day (or days) of year is (are) incredibly magical. For one, there are so many different cultural holidays, from our Halloween roots of Samhain, to All Saints’ Day to Latin America’s Día de los Muertos, to harvest festivals, to Guy Fawkes Day, etc.

Let’s start with the American classic holiday, Halloween. We all know how the holiday is celebrated today, at least in North America (though I’ve got a fun example of how it’s changing in an eczema-friendly direction that I’ll talk about later in the post), so for now let’s skip back a few decades to talk about Halloween’s origins.

Here’s the shortened history. Halloween had its roots from the Celtic festival Samhain, a celebration of the end of summer and the start of the harvest season. Because of the weather changes from summer to winter, it was also believed that this was a time when the worlds of the living and the death overlapped, and spirits could return to earth. To celebrate, the Celtic priests (Druids) made large bonfires where people brought sacrifices from their farm production, and they dressed up in animal skins. When the Roman Empire conquered the Celtic territory, they introduced other festivals that blended into our current holiday lore, such as commemorating the dead and festivals of fruit and trees (one which may have inspired the old tradition of bobbing for apples). The blending of Christianity into the Celtic territories led to holidays like All Souls’ Day, which was like Samhain but people dressed up as angels, devils, and saints, and eventually All Saints Day was moved to November 1st and Samhain (which became All Hallows Eve, and then Halloween) became the night before or October 31st. Halloween in America started out more similarly to the harvest festivals, then formed into an amalgam of folklore, ghost stories, mischief, and asking for treats. Over time it was reformed to try to be more community-based with parties, and with treats being given out to avoid tricks becoming the norm. At some point costumes were encouraged, first as a way to deter roaming spirit from recognizing living people, and then it was more for fun as it was modernized to what we know it as today.

Speaking of modernizing, there’s a new version of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch redone as a Netflix original (called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) that definitely takes a much darker take on the 90s sitcom. In it, Sabrina is a half-witch, half-mortal who is constantly taking on the patriarchy, which is particularly creative when the patriarchy in question is not always that of humanity. But that’s where I’ll stop just in case anyone is planning on watching it (noting that some of the themes and violence are not appropriate for young children). If I were to try to liken the show’s general theme to that of eczema, I’d say it would be that you should always feel free to fight to create your own space, your own identity, and your own world even when the options seem to be telling you that you have a limited amount of choice. I’d elaborate more but I’m trying not to give away too many thematic spoilers.

And as promised, here’s a fun eczema-friendly movement that’s developed. Called the Teal Pumpkin Project, it’s a movement that is in recognition of the growing amount of life-threatening food allergies. Pioneered by a mom named Becky Basalone from Tennessee in 2012, she painted a pumpkin teal to indicate that she would offer alternatives to candy on Halloween, as her son had anaphylaxis and she wanted to have a way for him to still enjoy the holiday without worry. The Food Allergy Research and Education organization picked up the Teal Pumpkin Project and helped it gain country-wide recognition in 2014, encouraging people around the nation to put out these teal pumpkins to let families know that there are allergy-free (non-edible) treats available. So now, for those children out there that may be going through some sort of systematic inflammation disorder (be it food allergies, eczema, or something else), they also have a way to still partake in the festivities of All Hallow’s Eve. If you want to be involved, you can paint a pumpkin teal and put it outside your house, and then add your house to the teal pumpkin project map.

FARE_TPP_NOURL

Now for Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead). This holiday has seen an increase in recognition in the states over the years (just look at movies such as Book of Life, or the newer Disney movie Coco). It entails a celebration of one’s deceased, honoring their lives by creating an ofrenda (or offerings) for them of food, flowers, colorful skeletons, and people don brightly colored clothing and have parades and music and festivities to celebrate their family. The belief (of which developed from a mix of Aztec culture and Catholicism) is that on the Day of the Dead one’s ancestors come back to visit on earth, but it is disrespectful to grieve for one’s deceased, so instead it is a day of reunion and remembrance and happiness.

And lastly we have Guy Fawkes Day. Many of you may be familiar with this holiday due to the 2006 movie V for Vendetta, that centers around this elusive date of November 5th (easily remembered by the ditty: “remember remember the 5th of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” The history behind this holiday was that under various monarchs in England, (but primarily under King James I’s rule), Catholics were persecuted, unable to marry, fined for refusing to attend non-Catholic services, etc. Various attempts to overthrow the ruling king were enacted but the most famous was that done by Guy Fawkes and company. Their plan was to use gunpowder to blow up parliament on November 5th, 1605. Somehow, a letter was delivered to parliament about the plot, and Fawkes was stopped November 4, and subsequently he and his team were sentenced to be drawn and quartered as punishment for high treason. Celebrations with bonfires started after the plot was revealed and November 5th became known as Guy Fawkes Day, (even spreading to America as Pope Day where people burned the Pope in effigy). Although America stopped celebrating their version, in Britain, Guy Fawkes Day entails (even today) bonfires, fireworks, parades, and of course, burning Fawkes in effigy. The holiday has taken a spin where Guy Fawkes is sometimes seen as a hero, a change which is attributed to the movie V for Vendetta, where V wears a Guy Fawkes mask as he attempts to topple a fascist government regime. Spoiler alert: in the movie, V goes on a last stand rampage to kill off the remaining “bad guys” and results in him sacrificing himself. While he is dying, he shares a “kiss” (put in quotes because the heroine, Evie, kisses his mask), and then he dies and she puts his body onto the train with all the explosives, that runs under parliament. Maybe if V had lived in this time period, instead of deciding to sacrifice himself he would have jumped into the bandwagon of #unhideECZEMA, but pioneered his own movement to be about unhiding burns, and then he could have removed the mask and gloves and found himself worthy of living a new life with Evie. But then there wouldn’t be a movie.

Speaking of movies, here’s a side note to end with (though it’s not family-friendly and it’s quite violent and whatnot): the movie Deadpool actually supports the idea really well of skin issues not being a big deal. Spoiler alert: Ryan Reynolds’ character Wade, aka Deadpool, becomes horribly disfigured from a mutant experiment and spends the first movie chasing after the psychopath doctor who did it to him to get the doctor to make him good-looking again before he is wiling to go back to see his beloved girlfriend/fiancée, Ness. When that plan ultimately fails and he is going to be forever scarred, he is still reunited with Ness and she is upset at him for wasting time away from her, but unfazed by his skin. The old adage holds true, love is goes deeper than skin deep.

And now here’s to me hoping my skin is cooler tonight and I can sleep.

 

REFERENCES

Born, Courtney. “Origin of the Teal Pumpkin Project- Interview with FACET’s Becky Basalone.” Living Allergic, https://www.allergicliving.com/2014/10/23/the-origin-of-the-teal-pumpkin-project-interview-with-becky-basalone-facet/. Accessed 30 Oct 2018.

Greenspan, Jesse. “Guy Fawkes Day: A Brief History.” History, https://www.history.com/news/guy-fawkes-day-a-brief-history. Accessed 30 Oct 2018.

“Halloween 2018.” History. https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween. Accessed 30 Oct 2018.

Richman-Abdou, Kelly. “Día de los Muertos: How Mexico Celebrates Its Annual ‘Day of the Dead’.” My Modern Met, https://mymodernmet.com/dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead/. Accessed 1 Nov 2018.

all posts, miscellaneous

hello new season!

nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I love me some fall.
Born right before a time of thanks giving,
All Hallows eve as the favorite,
But Dia de los Muertes too,
And the allure of the medieval faires,
costumes, candy and color.

I love the crisp air smells,
the harvest season of bounty.
Pumpkins and apples are two of my favorites,
prerequisites for my sweet tooth preferences.
Surplus of hot beverages to soothe my soul.
Autumn is my season.

At the same time though,
eczema provokes hatred of cold.
The nip of jack frost early,
Equates regression to grumpy inconsolable,
as dampness of this coast seeps into the soul.

With autumn’s arrival,
Outfits at home are often accessorized,
with blankets,
the thicker the better,
new wealth built by warm layers.
Snuggles are needed,
for satiety of a vampire of heat,
but alas skin prevents it from being fait accompli,
as healing is slow.
In lieu, the bath,
concoction that I brew
to foster the feel
of physical familial warm
to ward of the bite
of Autumn’s sojourn