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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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, the eczema body

why do i have wrinkles on my knees?!

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My skin is going through what I believe to be another topical steroid withdrawal. My reasoning? I have excessive wrinkling on the extensor surfaces of my skin (I call this stage of skin my “elephant” phase, and I’m not alone; see the study here), and I was on a moderately potent steroid ointment for most of my body and a lower potent one for my face/crooks of elbows and knees when I found out I was pregnant. What finding out I was pregnant meant for my skin was that, because the more potent one was not necessarily safe for a growing baby, I was taken off of it earlier than planned and told to use just the lower potency one all over my body instead. Unfortunately my thicker skin areas were used to the higher one so the response was less than ideal and I ended up still flaring a lot as I did my low potency taper. I gradually phased out using the lower one despite some discomfort because having to use topical steroids over such a large surface area of skin does increase the risk of it being absorbed into the bloodstream, making it more likely to affect my baby.

So in a nutshell I had a fairly quick taper and now am cold turkey off all topical steroids again. The result has been interesting. This winter has dragged on which means I have been starved for vitamin D, more sluggish from being trapped indoors, and cold. Whenever I have a withdrawal, my skin is hotter to the touch because it is acting as an impaired barrier and letting my core temperature heat go. The result? I am a grouchy popsicle of a human.

Luckily, we have finally seen a break in the northeast chill, and I was able to enjoy the weekend basking in the sun and walking for miles. Hopefully getting outside and playing more will help me get my skin back to its old equilibrium before the baby comes.

Nighttime presents its own problems. Though I am less stressed about losing sleep nowadays (having a remote job helps), I do find that physically sleeping is still a trigger. The last few days I have had hives that appear on my back when I am in bed (but not in the same part of my back each day which would have made me think it was my sheets or  lotion). I also tend to get heat rash-like symptoms on whatever side of my body I am laying on, or even if I roll over to lay on my back for a bit. I haven’t figured out why that is, but it’s extremely irritating and usually affects my IT band area on my legs the most. And naturally since I am awake weird hours, I notice how my skin dries out as the night goes on (but I am usually too tired to actually get up and re-apply another coat of lotion/moisturizer).

My methods of combatting this withdrawal flare are the following:

  1. keeping calm. I have been extraordinarily unfazed by my skin this time round. I am not worried it will never heal, and I am not worried when I miss sleep (I just try to take more cat naps later on or go to bed the next day at crazily early times like 5pm).
  2. diluted bleach baths. I tend to take one many once every one or two weeks just to make sure I keep the potential infections at bay. I usually know when I have had bad scratching bouts or see signs of what I think may be early infections, and I decide when to do these baths by those feelings.
  3. sugar reduction. Yes, despite being a sugar-lover, I am trying to cut down on added sugars. I don’t even put sugar in my oatmeal anymore (instead I cut up a fresh green apple into it or add berries if I have them). I let myself have one treat on Saturday and Sunday, but I make it so I have to work for it (like walk 2 miles to get the treat, then walk back).
  4. finding a good product for the skin presentation. Lately I’m hooked on Exederm’s daily care moisturizer. It doesn’t stop me from still drying out and flaking but it also usually doesn’t burn or cause excessive itching (except sometimes at night, but my skin is an unpredictable animal at night).
  5. living the “motion is lotion” motto. I have been trying to increase my NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) meaning I have been trying to reduce the time I am a sedentary lump. The warming weather is helping (I will happily walk anywhere in my town even if it is a 1-3 mile walk one way), and I have been doing a 100 push-up challenge every night before bed (I do modified pushups as my belly has been getting bigger!). I also started incorporating more hip workouts and squats/lunges to keep my legs in shape as this baby grows. All in all, “I like to move it, move it”.
  6. showers first thing. When I get up from bed (which sometimes is a struggle in itself), I get into the shower to start my day. One, I find it therapeutic, the feeling of water. Two, it helps me soften the skin and wash off some of the dead skin so that the lotion/moisturizer can be better absorbed. Three, it bases me in a routine.

All in all I feel like I am handling this withdrawal much better than previous ones. My skin has more or less remained skin-colored this time (instead of reddening everywhere). I’ll give updates if it starts to subside or if it gets worse in time.

Oh and here is a photo of what I mean when I say I have elephant skin (this is my right knee):

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REFERENCES

Sheary B. Steroid Withdrawal Effects Following Long-term Topical Corticosteroid Use. Dermatitis. 2018 Jul;29(4):213-218.