A Discussion About Essential Oils

Essential-Oils

Essential oils have become a craze. Every time I turn around there’s someone talking or writing something about essential oils. As a pharmacist, it’s a trend that has me a bit concerned. I’m not completely against using essential oils, but I do have a problem with how they’re being marketed and some of the ways which people are using them. 

Unsafe Natural ChemicalsNatural versus Synthetic

There’s definitely been a trend towards using more natural products and fewer synthetic (man-made) products. We’re becoming more aware of how some synthetic products are affecting the environment around us and our health. In many situations, that’s a change I applaud, support, and have been making myself in certain capacities. There is no doubt that there are many dangerous synthetic chemicals that should be avoided. I switched to using standard chemical cleaners to using Norwex because a) using primarily water and microfiber cloths to clean my house is safer than using cleaning chemicals and b) often, I’ve found the Norwex products to be more effective than the chemicals. As a pharmacist, I’ve been trained to think about drugs and chemicals in those two ways: safety and effectiveness. If a chemical is safe for human use, but not effective, there’s not any use in it! If a chemical is effective, but not safe, then you need to weigh the risks and the benefits before use. 

First of all, let’s realize that you cannot eliminate chemicals. Organic chemistry is at the basis of biology. A chemical, by definition, is two or more atoms joined together through a chemical bond. Everything around you can be broken down into various chemical components, which can then be broken down into atoms. Even water is a chemical! 

To be completely honest, just about every chemical can be harmful to some degree, it’s just dependent on the dose or exposure level, and whether it is doing more harm than good. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
-Water: in general, water is very safe for human use and consumption. However, excessive water consumption can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which can be fatal.
-Chemotherapy: the drugs used in chemotherapy are very toxic and can cause a lot of health problems. However, we use them at specific doses in patients with cancer as a medicine that can help save their lives. The side effects of chemotherapy are all evidence of the toxicity, but overall the result in patients with cancer can be more good than harm. 

Whether a chemical is natural or synthetic is irrelevant with regard to it’s safety to humans (or our pets!). There are plenty of really nasty natural chemicals that we try to avoid all the time!  Continue reading A Discussion About Essential Oils

The New Normal

I’m baaaack! I’ve pretty much been ignoring this little space since we moved. I can’t believe that we closed over a WEEK ago! Since closing on the house we’ve been insanely busy, so I figure it’s time to update y’all with what’s been going on in our lives. 

I finally convinced Dave that we needed to hire movers. It was a really last minute decision, and I started setting it up. We closed late Monday afternoon, and needed to be out of the apartment by Wednesday. That meant we needed the movers for Tuesday. Unfortunately, the agent informed me on Monday night that they wouldn’t be able to move us on Tuesday, but they could do it on Wednesday. After a bit of discussion, we decided to go back to Plan A and move everything ourselves. We needed the stuff out of our apartment by Tuesday so we could clean the place on Wednesday. It rained, and rained a lot here in central Indiana last week. Our primary moving vehicle was going to be my father-in-law’s pickup truck. Thankfully my husband saw the problem of moving all our stuff in an open bed truck during a downpour, and decided to rent a UHaul truck for the day. The good thing about this plan? Much less expensive than hiring movers. The bad thing about this plan? It’s hell on earth. Given that I’m heading into surgery in less than a month and had strict instructions not to carry anything over 10-15 lbs, I was pretty much useless. Plus, our apartment was on the 3rd floor and climbing stairs is a great way to make me hurt. Despite doing a minimal amount of the actual “moving” I was still in a world of pain. My mother-in-law was also around to help, but she also has back problems, so we mainly stuck to boxing and unboxing. That left just my husband and father-in-law to do pretty much ALL of the moving…bless their souls. I watched my father-in-law load my boxed-up mattress and bed-spring into the back of his pickup truck on Monday night without any assistance. He’s a serious work horse! Continue reading The New Normal

Journal Swap Creative

Today I’m linking up with Anne at Love the Here and Now and Cassie at Sage for the Journal Swap Creative!

About a month ago, Anne and Cassie had the brilliant idea of pairing bloggers together and having them swap journals! Bloggers are writers at heart, so what blogger doesn’t love a journal!? Actually, I haven’t been one to journal a lot in the past but I had been thinking of starting before Anne and Cassie announced this linkup idea – so what better time to start than now!?

When I signed up for the journal swap, I had the option to get a domestic partner or an “anywhere” partner – domestic or abroad. Being a Canadian, I know that foreigners need some love too, so I picked the “anywhere” option…and I’m so glad I did! I was paired with Kimberley, who is the voice behind Peculiar Treasures. Kimberley happen to live in….AUSTRALIA! I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, so swapping journals with an Australian sounded really cool to me. The great thing about this linkup is that it allowed us to get to know other each other! I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Kimberley – she has such a wonderful heart. 

Ready to send Kimberley's journal off to Australia!
Ready to send Kimberley’s journal off to Australia!

Continue reading Journal Swap Creative

Awesome

Today I am linking up with the April Awesome Link-Up with Anne from Love the Here and Now. Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of something not-so-awesome: moving for the third time in three years. While the act of moving is one of the least awesome things on the planet, I’m choosing to look at the few awesome things in the process:

1) Finding packing tape, in bulk, at Costco. Do you know how much packing tape we’ve used? Several rolls. It’s actually scary how much packing tape you need when boxing up your life to move it from point A to point B. 

2) Discovering our wedding gifts all over again. And Christmas presents. So many things had to be stored away until we made this move. It’s like Christmas all over again by opening all our boxes and discovering amazing things. Like all our wine glasses…

3) Speaking of wine glasses…I christened one of them with a glass of moscato this evening….in a bubble bath. It was the perfect remedy for my aching post-move joints.  The bubble bath, I mean. But the moscato helped relax me too. 

4) Katie “christening” the house by taking a piddle in the basement guest room…aka one of the few places in the house with carpet and not hardwood or tile. Oh wait, that actually wasn’t awesome at all. 

5) Eating dinner on our lanai. We might not have had plates, or a table, or really anything other than lawn chairs, but it was still awesome.  

…and now I’m back to moving…

Until later, Ashlen

The Last House Update

I can’t believe that I’m sitting down to write what will be my last house update. It’s certainly time – we put down money on the lot 13 months ago – but it still seems surreal. We close on Monday afternoon and we will be moving in right away. That means our lives are crazy busy right now. We had a walk-through with our construction manager yesterday afternoon, followed by a walk-through with our inspector throughout the day today, and finally the closing on Monday afternoon. Right now we’re busy packing up boxes. At least half of our stuff has been in storage in our garage since I moved in almost two years ago (which is kind of crazy to think about….all the things I haven’t seen in so long!) but it still feels like we have a lot of stuff crammed into our tiny apartment. Thankfully Dave has finally started to take the packed boxes down to the garage, so we’re actually able to move around a bit until I pack up another few boxes! 

The house itself is really coming together. Earlier this week we got the paint we’ve been waiting on in our closets, the handle on the door to the lanai, and (drum roll please….) APPLIANCES! Also, a cleaning crew was there ta couple days ago and everything looks so much better without a big layer of construction dust. It’s really starting to look and feel more like a home and like a construction site! 

Appliances

Let’s get to pictures, starting with the appliances. This was really exciting, because kitchen appliances were the very first selections we made back in September 2014. September. I remembered a lot of the details, but I have one more drawer in the freezer than I was remembering, and Dave found the warming oven to be bigger than he had remembered. Of course, everything looks so much better when it’s actually installed in the house! We still don’t have a dishwasher. Dave got a call about the dishwasher this week – apparently ours arrived with a big dent. They ordered a replacement, but it won’t be here for something like 14 days. We were given the option of picking a out a different dishwasher, or just waiting until the reordered one arrived and we’ve opted to wait. We were less than thrilled about having to hand wash everything for a couple of weeks, but yesterday our construction manager told us that he had got on the phone and told our appliance supplier to get us a temporary dishwasher in there until ours arrives and can be installed. That was fantastic news, and it was an option we didn’t even realize was possible. Woo hoo!

Ovens Continue reading The Last House Update

Avoiding Blogger Burnout

How to avoid blogger burnout by following one simple rule.

I’ve been writing on this blog for a while now. It’s been well over a year. When I started publishing posts on a consistent basis, I made a little promise to myself. It’s a little rule I have for blogging, and probably the only “rule” I have for blogging: “if it’s not fun, or enjoyable, then don’t do it.” 

Continue reading Avoiding Blogger Burnout

Five on Friday

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I figured that I should start today off with a little update from yesterday’s post. My appointment with the physiatrist went as well as could be expected. She was a wonderful physician with a great bedside manner, and that’s always comforting with you’re inevitably receiving bad news. It turns out that she has been intending to send me straight to a surgeon since she first saw all my notes. It was obvious that she had looked over my past medical history in detail before the walked into the room. It’s so nice when you don’t have to retell your story for the umpteenth time. She just needed to perform and document some provocation tests, which I passed (or failed?) with flying colors. Apparently I’m about as perfect of a candidate as you could find for this surgery.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers yesterday – I think they worked in some way or another because usually it takes about 8 weeks to get an appointment with the surgeon but he had one available next Wednesday. Instead of waiting two months, I’ll only be waiting 6 days. 

Just because I’ve been referred to the surgeon doesn’t guarantee that he will accept my case. In the end, the surgeon is responsible for determining if a patient is an appropriate candidate for a procedure. Any responsible surgeon takes that seriously, because they bear the fault if something goes wrong. That said, because my case seems to be straightforward and I’m relatively low risk for complications (especially compared to the more senior population that he’s probably used to operating on…) I suspect that he will have no problem taking on my case. Assuming that’s the case, he’ll present my options. There are three different manufacturers of the rods that are used to fuse the sacroiliac joint, so I’ll have to pick my hardware. Fun, right? This is the point where I appreciate my background in health care, because I can really understand what physicians are telling me and I know what questions to ask. 

So am I still scared? Yes, but not as much as before. Having more of an answer and a clear-cut direction puts me a bit more at ease. Plus, I found out that I’ll only have to stay off my leg for one week, not six weeks like I was originally anticipating! 

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Enough about me, let’s get on to some Blogger Love….

All the Joys - Blogger Love

7 Ways to Manage Anxiety by the new wifestyle – Chelsea has some great advice for anyone who has ever struggled with anxiety. I’m a pharmacist, so I understand anxiety and mental illness from a provider and a patient perspective. Being a pharmacist, I’m a nerd and I love drugs, but sadly we don’t have a medicinal cure for everything. Some people can manage their mental illness without medication, while other people require medication(s) to balance the chemicals in their brain and allow them to lead a “normal” life (if anyone actually knows that “normal” is, please let me know). Despite a person’s choice or need to use medication, there are a lot of non-drug therapy options that can and SHOULD be utilized to help control your symptoms. Chelsea’s list is AMAZING and she has some great ideas, some of which I’ve used in the past and some of which I should probably use more often! I would actually add one more to her list to make it “8 ways to manage anxiety” and the 8th way would be animal therapy. Seriously, even if you can’t own a pet, just interacting with animals can be SO beneficial to human health and healing (and that’s a fact, people!). I always loved seeing therapy dogs around the hospital when I was working – I swear they did just as much good for the staff as they did for the patients!

Dear Fashion Industry by Chicken Scratch – Val said what I have been saying for years….the fashion industry needs to bring back flared jeans! Actually, she made the point that the fashion industry apparently is bringing back flared jeans. Hallelujah! If you’re a super model, or you happen to be one of those people blessed with a “stick” figure, skinny jeans are awesome. They look fabulous on you. For the rest of us….not so much. I’ve been trying to not wear pants for the past 5+ years because of the skinny jeans trend, but honestly I’m not always a huge skirt / dress kind of girl. I have hips, and a really big butt, and they don’t tend to fit into skinny pants. Even if they do fit into a stretchy pair, they don’t look too good. I’m also tired of looking at other girls with hips and butts trying to squeeze into skinny pants. Enough is enough. Thank goodness the flares are coming back!

Sharing Pregnancy on the Internet by Sage – This is such a difficult topic, and one I’ve wrestled with a bit myself, even though I’ve never been pregnant. Cassie mentioned about how Meagan handles sharing her kids on her blog – and I also think Meagan does a great job. Meagan refers to her kids by their first initial, and blurs or crops their faces out of pictures for their privacy. It seems like the perfect solution to balance acknowledging the existence of your kids but also maintaining their privacy. BUT – Meagan started blogging well after her pregnancies. That’s such a huge milestone event, and I think every blogger is tempted to share it on their blogs. How far do you go? Do you share their name? Their newborn pictures? No pictures? Do you talk about it at all? I think about it terms of “what would I have wanted?” kind of situation. My parents have plenty of embarrassing pictures and stories about me that they didn’t share on the internet because the internet wasn’t really around when I was that young. Don’t my future offspring deserve that privilege as well? Then again – I know I’m going to be so proud of them that I might just not be able to resist sharing a few pictures here and there! Continue reading Five on Friday

Fear

I’m scared. I’m scared of the unknown. I’m scared of change, and I’m scared of things staying the same. 

Today, just a few hours after this post is published, I’ll be sitting in a doctor’s office. A new doctor – one of many who I’ve seen for my back / hip / leg pain. 

My problem started in December 2005. I was a freshman in college, and a member of the Butler University women’s golf team. December is the off-season for us, but we worked out together as a team several times a week. It happened during an evening workout session. I remember the football team was working out too. We were doing walking lunges down the hallway of Hinkle Fieldhouse. Lunges where we held a weight with both hands and twisted in the opposite direction of the leg that was going forward. I remember everything about that moment. The smells, the sounds, and of course….the feeling. The feeling of something being wrong. It wasn’t some acute moment where I fell to the ground, screaming in pain, not able to move. Part of my left leg just felt….numb. Tingly. Not right. I could still walk, and at first I really wasn’t in pain at all. 

I don’t remember how long it was until I first started feeling the pain. A day or two maybe. At first it was mainly just below my knee. Sometimes it went all the way down to my ankle. Keeping me knee bent made it worse. I had trouble sitting unless I could constantly shift my leg and stretch it out. Plane rides were agony unless I could get an aisle seat and stretch that leg out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people on airplanes trip over my leg stuck out in the aisle….or how many times it’s been run over by the drink cart. Walking down hills when I was playing golf was the worst. Every step down the hill would result in a sharp acute pain that felt like someone was digging a knife into the side of my knee. 

I stopped playing golf my junior year. I stopped cold turkey. It was my life and my identity, and then….it wasn’t. I didn’t quit just because of my leg pain. There was a coach change, and our new coach wasn’t understanding of the fact that my academics had to come first. I was on an academic scholarship, not an athletic scholarship, so my grades absolutely had to be my first priority. I was having a difficult time balancing everything, and something had to give. That “something” was golf. 

By that time, my pain had changed. It was no longer just bellow my knee and down to my ankle. It was also in my lower back, by hip, and down the outer side of my left leg. By that time I had already seen several physicians and been given a variety of diagnoses. The theories involving my knee being the primary source of the pain no longer made any sense. The source of the pain was obviously higher up. The first physician who identified my back as the issue was in Chicago. The pattern of my pain was classic sciatica. By that time I had received X-rays and multiple MRIs on my knee, all showing that it was perfectly healthy. The physician in Chicago was the first to send me for an MRI of my back. He was certain that it would show a bulging, or herniated, disc in my back. It’s a weird feeling to hope for something to be wrong with a scan or a test, but when you don’t have answers, finding an answer is all you really want. Turns out, my discs are just fine. A couple years later I had a repeat MRI and a test to check my nerve function – again, everything was okay. 

I lost hope for a while. I lost hope that I would ever know what was wrong, and without knowing what was wrong I wouldn’t be able to find a solution and ever feel better. After we got married, my husband became frustrated with my limitations. Our dog has back problems and needs to be carried up and down the stairs of our third floor apartment, which is something I am unable to do. I struggle to carry groceries up the stairs, so he has to do a lot of the grocery shopping. He convinced me to go see a DO who specialized in osteopathic manipulative medicine. He got a recommendation from a friend who is a DO, and it turns out the guy he recommended is literally the guy who wrote the textbook on the subject. He quickly diagnosed me with sacroilliac (SI) joint dysfunction. I was skeptical at first – after all, I had received many diagnoses before which has all turned out to be incorrect. But when I went home and started researching the condition….it was the first thing that had ever made complete sense. My symptoms all fit the condition perfectly. For the first time, I had a bit of hope. I started seeing the DO every week or two, but it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be an easy case. I was grateful to be pain free after my sessions, but it only lasted a few days at most. We couldn’t get the adjustments to stay.

In June last year I drove out to Buffalo, NY at the urging of my family to have a consultation with a neurosurgeon. After more MRIs confirming that my back is still perfectly normal, I was again given the diagnosis of SI joint dysfunction, and presented with my options. The first step was to find someone in Indianapolis who performed SI joint injections to confirm the diagnosis. The “gold standard” for diagnosis is to inject lidocaine into the joint so that it is numbed, and see if the pain is mostly or completely relieved. If it is, then it indicates that the joint is the source of the problem. I waited until my annual physical to get the referral from my family physician – someone who I trust immensely. The injection confirmed the diagnosis – I felt great for a couple of hours. Then the lidocaine wore off. I was also injected with a corticosteroid to help reduce the inflammation in the joint. For some people, a few injections of the corticosteroid is apparently enough to fix their problems. The injections are done a month apart. After three of the injections, it was clear that I wasn’t getting any long-term benefit from them. Because the injections need to be guided by fluoroscopy, which involves radiation, it’s not advised to have the procedure done on a continuous basis. That meant I was on to the next step – a referral to physical therapy and a physiatrist. 

For the last month I’ve been in physical therapy. There’s no doubt that I’ve gained strength and flexibility. Some days, my pain is different. The pan down my leg isn’t as bad, but the pain in my lower back / hip is worse. Apparently, that’s a good thing. I’ve always struggled with delayed pain. I can walk a while and feel okay. If I really walk a lot, then I will start to feel it immediately, but for the most part I don’t feel the majority of the pain until several hours later. It’s easy to push myself too hard, because things don’t hurt while I’m doing them. That’s been the biggest problem with physical therapy. My therapist was impressed by my progress after our first session that she ramped things up quite a bit, which felt fine at the time, but I was almost unable to walk for the next couple of days. We’ve had to be cognizant of my limitations since then. 

Today is my appointment with the physiatrist. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so scared of an appointment with a physician – at least, not since I was a kid and terrified of needles. I know I shouldn’t be scared. She comes highly recommended, and by all accounts is incredibly thorough. I’ll be in good hands. I’m scared of the outcome of this appointment. The purpose of this appointment is to evaluate me for surgery. Right now I see a few potential outcomes, none of which sounds particularly appealing:
a) I’m referred to the surgeon right away
b) I’m sent for more physical therapy with a re-evaluation in the future
c) I’m not a candidate for surgery, and I need to rely on physical therapy 

You would think that option c is the best, but I fear that I’m going to need physical therapy for the rest of my life, and while I don’t mind doing physical therapy in the short term, I don’t want to be there twice a week for my entire life (plus all the exercises that I have to do at home twice a day can become time consuming…). Option b just means more waiting….and I’m ready to get on with my life. So why isn’t option a what I’m looking for? It’s surgery. I know it’s a relatively safe and minimally invasive surgery, but I’ve worked in health care and I know every possible thing that could go wrong. In this case, my knowledge is a detriment, not an advantage. 

Part of me feels like I should be excited because I actually have a chance at complete recovery, of being able to live a normal life again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for that because I know a lot of people in chronic pain don’t have the option of a permanent solution. This appointment is probably going to be a good step for me, but I still fear the unknown, fear the process that will result in change, and fear that things will stay the same. 

Until later, Ashlen

Book Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project

Synopsis

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics at a university in Australia. He is brilliant, but socially inept. It quickly becomes clear that he is on the autism spectrum, but despite researching the condition for a lecture, he does not recognize the symptoms in himself. He gave up on the prospect of marrying years before, but the story begins with his realization that he should find a suitable match for himself and avoid disastrous dates by creating a questionnaire for single women. His intention is to screen out all unsuitable matches and find a wife who is perfect for him. Don dubs this “The Wife Project.” While the wife project is initially unsuccessful, his friend and colleague, Gene, convinces him to go on dates to get practice and improve his social skills. Shortly, a girl by the name of Rosie walks into his office, and into his life. Despite a disastrous start to their first date, and Don’s quick conclusion that Rosie is an incompatible match for him, Rosie  sticks around and Don learns that she would like to learn the identity of her biologic father. Thus begins “The Father Project” and a friendship between Don and Rosie. Throughout the project, Don must ask himself why he is helping Rosie for no logical reason, if he is capable of changing, and if he is capable of feeling the emotion of love.  Continue reading Book Review: The Rosie Project

How We Save Money and Get Cash Back

How to Save Money

Saving money and getting cash back are two of my favorite concepts in the world. Since we’ve been a single-income household, I’ve become even more aware of ways that we can maximize our cash back and increase our savings. 

Shop Online

My father recently sent me this article that talks about methods that stores use to get you to buy more. By shopping online I avoid the navigation roadblocks, the comforting scents and sounds (which are probably the reason I always over-shop at Fresh Market), and the “touch factor.” If an item is sold in multiple locations, I can shop around for the best price.

Stores with Free ShippingFree Shipping

If you end up paying more for an item online than you would pay for it in the store because of shipping, then it defeats the point of shopping online to save money. A lot of stores give you free shipping if spend a minimum amount of money, but a select few offer free shipping no matter how much money you spend.  Continue reading How We Save Money and Get Cash Back