Friday, January 19, 2018

Little Magic

“Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe I’d cause a flood and people would be killed. That’s the problem with big magic. I only do little magic. Good cooking, my curing soup, my Tonic.”

Ella Enchanted is one of my very favorite read-alouds. It's light and fun and easily accessible, but each reading leaves me with something to ponder. I guess you could say that it is little magic, and in that regard, it makes a good case for itself.

Sometimes we need big magic, though.

Fourteen years ago, when I was pregnant with the twins, I had horrible nausea. It was so bad that I couldn't even hold down water, let alone enough nourishment to sustain two growing little ones. Without some extraordinary intervention, we would have been done for.

My doctor gave me an incredible potion that could completely stop nausea in a matter of minutes. It was big magic, and I'm grateful for it.

But big magic can have unintended consequences. Zofran helped me in big ways, but the side effects can be ghastly. When I was pregnant with the twins, it was too expensive to use except in emergencies. I had a sample pack of ten blissfully nausea-free days which I carefully hoarded and rationed. In a later pregnancy, however, the price had gone down enough that I could afford to be nausea-free every day. It was wonderful at first, but after a few weeks of consecutive use my digestive system shut down. It was a nightmare, and I regretted it for months after.

I'm so glad that there was big magic available when I was in danger of dehydration, but for lesser nausea, it did more harm than good.

Better stick to little magic whenever possible. Pressure to certain spots on my wrists, visualisation exercises, little tweaks to what I ate and when. Avoiding the many smells that made it worse and seeking out the few that helped. Ordinary, everyday safe things, strategically planned out to help me manage. It wasn't an instant fix like Zofran, and little magic wasn't enough all the time. Still, the little things added up, and without any awful side effects.

Big magic is sometimes necessary, but it is never entirely safe, and it requires a good deal of specialized knowledge to control.

Most of the time, we really just need some little magic. The tiny changes that send out big ripples.


Fresh air.

Lots of good clean water.

Is your perfume making you sick? Or helping you stay emotionally balanced? (It might be doing either one!)

Do you have enough beauty in your life?

Do you need a hug?

What are you cleaning with?

Are you eating good wholesome food, and in the proportions that make you feel good?

Even when big magic is necessary, it's important to tend to the little magic in our lives.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Essential oils all around

Even if you're brand new to the concept of essential oils, you probably have quite a bit of experience with them already. Essential oils are simply the volatile plant components that float off into the air, giving off a distinctive aroma. You could even say that essential oils ARE the aroma, since your experience of smell comes from inhaling these compounds.

If you've ever walked through an evergreen forest or smelled a rose, you've experienced their benefits aromatically, and if you've ever peeled an orange, you've absorbed its oil through your skin. At almost every meal, you are most likely ingesting the aromatic compounds from various herbs and spices.

Wherever there are plants, there are essential oils. They are a normal part of everyday life for all of us, and they are a factor in our health, whether we're paying attention to them or not.

Distilled essential oils allow us to access these fragrant compounds in a form that's convenient, shelf-stable, and easily portable. It gives us the chance to enjoy and experience the aromas of plants from all around the world. 

Generally speaking, getting these aromatic benefits in their natural state is ideal. Nothing really replaces the magic of a long walk in the woods... but by diffusing essential oils from aromatic trees, you can access many of the same benefits. It's a way to breathe in more of the joys of nature in the midst of modern life.

    Monday, October 9, 2017

    Strategic Flavors

    Ingestion is a controversial topic in aromatherapy, which is funny, because most of us ingest essential oils all the time.

    Essential oils are frequently used as flavorings in the food industry, especially in candies and sodas.

    This is obviously not a strong argument for their health benefits--although peppermint candy and cola syrup are traditional folk remedies--but it does mean that ingesting essential oils is a pretty normal thing, and as long as they are properly diluted and used in moderation, it's as risky as drinking a can of La Croix.

    Too much essential oils can be very dangerous. So can too much baking soda. But in both cases, it's pretty easy to safely incorporate them into your food, because unsafe amounts taste absolutely revolting. 

    As with baking soda, there's a large gray area between normal culinary amounts and poisoning, and if you're going to go there, you had better make certain that you know what you're doing. 

    But thus far, I haven't felt the need to learn how to ingest larger amounts of essential oils. I'm very happy with the results that I get when I use normal flavoring amounts, and simply deploy flavor strategically. 

    I've always enjoyed putting flavored creamers in my coffee. Now, I make my own. Copaiba is my go-to flavor; it tastes lovely and supports my body in incredible ways. Depending on how I feel, though, I sometimes switch it up and use Thieves, peppermint, or nutmeg instead. 

    When I want the health benefits of some savory oil such as oregano, I'll whip up a yummy olive-oil based dipping sauce and enjoy it with some bread. There's great power in normal everyday flavors, used strategically. It's joyful and delicious, and it's safer that way, too.

    Sunday, October 1, 2017

    Doing the things.

    Living inside this body of mine is... complicated.

    I've long since given up the search for a diagnosis, but my sister was finally diagnosed with a genetic collagen disorder that pretty much explains my whole life--the pain, the heart murmur, the gastroparesis, and even the long string of bewildered doctors.

    I'm looking forward to getting genetic testing and solid answers, but in the mean time, it doesn't make a whole lot of practical difference. There's no cure, but neither is it likely to kill me any time soon; it's just a matter of doing what I can to live the best life possible.

    And there's a LOT that I can do.

    There's no magic bullet, just a whole bunch of simple little things that add up to a big difference... as long as I actually do them.

    This year, in the spring and early summer, I felt so good that I mostly forgot that I was sick. As life got busier, I stopped focusing so intently on maintaining my health, at the same time as the ozone levels literally took the wind out of me.

    In the middle of a relapse, it can feel impossible and hopeless, but it's not.  The biggest part of the battle is remembering that I'm not really as powerless as I feel.

    So this list is mostly for me, to reference and remember. Here are some of the things that help me:

    Hydration--Water is life, but it doesn't do my body much good without adequate...

    Salt--High blood pressure runs in my family, so I grew up using salt very sparingly. My own blood pressure runs low, however, so learning to adequately salt my food has been important. When I use enough salt, I can stand up without getting dizzy, and food tastes better, too!

    Music--Listening is good, playing is better, and participating in an ensemble is best of all. Unfortunately, this is really hard to pull off when I'm sick, but whenever I'm able to, it pays off in a big way.

    Exercise--Daily life supplies opportunity for at least as much physical activity as I'm capable of. Exercise is important though, for maintaining good posture throughout the day. So that, you know, my ribs and spine stay where they're supposed to be.  I highly recommend Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. The neck pain sequence is magic. Time-consuming magic, but worth it. And when I do the exercises outdoors, it doubles as...

    Grounding--This one sounds crazy, but it makes a huge difference. The more time I spend touching the bare ground, the better I feel. I feel better after going outside barefoot for just a few minutes, and even on my worst days, an hour laying on the ground relieves 90% of my joint pain. Some people say that the Earth's mild negative charge can neutralize free radicals, others say this is crazy. All I know is that it helps me a lot.

    Kything--Okay, this one makes my obsession with grounding seem downright mainstream! You're free to believe me or not, but plants talk to me, and the more I listen, the better I feel.

    Probiotics--I had a lot of ear infections as a kid, and antibiotics did a number on my gut flora. Kefir has been life-changing for me, transforming my digestion. I got my kefir grains from a friend who got them from a friend who ordered them from  I haven't figured out how to maintain a colony here in the RV, so I've been drinking store-bought kefir from time to time to time. I also plan to try out Life 9. I like growing my own probiotics so much, but sometimes that just isn't practical.

    Juice--even with probiotics, digestion can be pretty exhausting for me. Juices and smoothies help me get adequate nutrition without taxing my digestive system too much.

    NingXia Red--This wolfberry-based supplement is loaded with antioxidants, and I feel so much better when I have 2-4 oz. a day. Last month we had mix-up with the post office, so I've had to make do without it. NOT a fun experiment, but it's confirmed yet again that, yes, this stuff helps. A lot. (Added bonus, it's the most delicious thing I've ever tasted.)

    Copaiba--I am so grateful for this South American tree resin. I like swirling a drop in my cream before I pour my coffee.

    What's on your list? What do you do to keep yourself feeling your best? 

    (This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. None of this should be construed as medical advice, and none of these claims have been evaluated by the FDA. Except the one about Copaiba being generally recognized as safe for human consumption. My apologies to aromatherapists of the British persuasion. These are simply my personal experiences; you do you.)

    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    There's a truism in marketing: if you want to people to buy drills, you have to sell holes.

    In its most straightforward sense, this expresses what's beautiful and good about marketing--connecting people with products and services that will help them accomplish their goals.

    But there's a darker side to that phrase. It's not just drill-marketers who are selling holes.

    Every day, we're inundated with images designed to make us feel helpless and inadequate. "You have a [product]-shaped hole in your life."

    One of the most egregious examples is a television ad for a lawyer seeking clients in financial distress. Ominous words flash across the black screen as a grim voice inquires about your financial worries, accompanied by a loud, thudding heartbeat. The heartbeat grows faster and faster as the voice lays out various worst-case scenarios, and asks about the effect the worry may be having on your health and relationships.

    Suddenly the tension breaks. Come-to-Jesus piano music softly plays, as the lawyer stands ready to welcome you with open arms. Regardless of the past, you can have a fresh start if you call right now.

    Most of the time it's a lot more than subtle this, but it's everywhere. People are selling us holes so that we will pay to fill them up again. They're selling us despair and hopelessness and dependency, and I don't want anything to do with it. I'm not buying it, and I certainly don't want to sell it either.

    This is why I love multi-level-marketing: we're in this together, but we each have the freedom to choose what it's going to look like for us.

    For me, it's a high priority to make sure that I'm selling freedom and joy, not frustration and dependency.

    And I want to sell the confidence that you really are capable of learning to use oils safely and well, and if you choose to do so, you can take charge of your own wellness in a new way.

    You can have an awesome life just fine without essential oils, but they have brought much beauty and joy into my life, and I'm pretty sure you'll love them as much as I do.

    It's hard work, but it's worth it: if it's not about freedom, I don't want anything to do with it.

    Tuesday, August 8, 2017

    Complex Meters

    Common wisdom dictates that the first rule of not going crazy is never to google your cardiac symptoms. Numerous tests have shown my arrhythmia to be benign, so I've pretty much put it out of my mind, except when playing my flute. That little stutter every fourth beat always throws me off if I'm not paying attention. My heart beats to a different drum, but I'm finally learning how to navigate the poly-rhythms.

    Living well with chronic illness is, to a large extent, a mental game. No amount of positive thinking will give us a normal life, but sometimes mindset can make the difference between being stuck in bed all day, and being stuck in bed most of the day. We take what we can get, and we live with very little margin for error.

    Once while I was in high school, maybe six months after the onset of my symptoms, I woke up feeling unexpectedly wonderful. My mind was clear, my joints only ached a little bit, and I had more energy that I'd had in weeks. It was glorious. I decided to surprise my mother by secretly getting all sorts of homeschool work done, while pretending to be as incapacitated as the day before. It backfired horribly. Feigned lethargy quickly became very real, and by afternoon I had relapsed altogether.

    It's a lesson I've taken to heart. I have to make the most of every good moment, gathering enough joy to propel me forward, postpone the next relapse, hopefully make it as mild as possible. Keeping my morale up is no small feat when my whole body hurts, and this strategy isn't without its drawbacks; invisible illnesses are even harder to explain when you smile all the time. It's better than the alternative, though, so I work hard to keep my chin up. A joyful heart makes good medicine indeed.

    Most of my symptoms, I've googled like crazy, as one does when the battery of blood tests fails to produce answers. After all these years, my sister finally has a diagnosis, and it appears to be genetic, so I'm praying that I will soon be able to get some medical help that actually helps. In the mean time, I'm always looking for ways to maximize my health on my own. I play around with sundry herbs, craft my own antibiotics out of kitchen staples, and make music like my life depends on it.

    Last week I finally broke down and googled my arrhythmia. It turns out that in cardiac terms, "benign" simply means that I'm not about to drop dead. It doesn't mean I won't be dizzy and out of breath all the time. All those years of anxiously wondering why the blood work never gave any answers, and what if this was all in my head and I was going crazy... well, this might have been good to know.

    I'd thought that if I could just avoid thinking about my heart, I could protect myself from anxiety. Funny how that backfired.

    I'm learning once again that the antidote to fear is always joy, never ignorance. You have to face the struggle head-on, or it will constantly ambush you, but then you also have to seek joy out, treat it as if it's more real than pain.

    Which it is.

    And now I think I'll practice my flute. Today's challenge is to turn my scales into something beautiful enough to stay on beat.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    Freedom and Flow

    The deeper I dive into this network marketing gig, the more excited I get.

    It's work. HARD work. But it's good work, because I get to exactly the work I was made to do.

    The work I do looks different from the work that that the other amazing people in my organization do. They help make my work profitable, I help make their work profitable, and when we work together, each of us can work in our strengths.

    Some are constantly meeting new people and introducing them to our products, while others make sure that everyone has amazing customer support, and nobody falls through the cracks. As for me, dialogue is my big thing, and a rousing Facebook discussion is my happy place. Somebody pinch me, I'm building my career around that.

    It's a gorgeous thing to watch people finding their places, supporting one another out of their strengths. The cycle of exchange is mesmerizing, almost magical.

    And really, this is what marketing is all about, isn't it? Bringing people together, facilitating the kind of mutually beneficial exchanges that allow everyone to work in their own strengths.

    It smells like justice, and I'm so glad that I get to be a part of this ecosystem.