Thoughts on pain

 

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the concept of pain. I’ve lived approximately the last half of my life in chronic pain. This has been due, in part, to car wrecks, horse related injuries and then deciding that my 5’3’’ 100 lb body should be able to handle wrestling dogs, some that outweighed me, for a living. There may have also been a heartbreak or 20 thrown in there too. So, what is pain? Here are a few things I’ve discovered as I’ve spent the last eight years researching it from multiple angles. I invite you to decide for yourself if any of it resonates with you. Feel free to take what does and leave the rest. I like an idea I once heard, where perspectives are like a buffet. You have the choice to take what you like, leave the rest and not be upset that someone else enjoys an offering you don’t.
 
The definition of pain by Merrium Webster:
1 :  punishment the pains and penalties of crime
2a :  usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (as a disease or an injury) the pain of a twisted ankle ankle; also :  a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action the pain of bee stings b :  acute mental or emotional distress or suffering :  grief the pain she had felt at those humiliating words — Morley Callaghan
 
Noxious. That doesn’t sound good, does it? Let’s see what the dictionary has to say about that one:
1a :  physically harmful or destructive to living beings noxious waste noxious fumes b :  constituting a harmful influence on mind or behavior; especially: morally corrupting noxious doctrines
2 :  disagreeable, obnoxious this noxious political scandal — H. L. Ickes
 
One thing that hit me right off the bat was how our language can give us a clue to the deeper meaning. I said that my pain was “due” to x, y and z. The first definition is punishment and penalties of a crime. So, is it possible that our minds, and therefore our bodies, since our brains control the central nervous system and the output of neurochemicals that create sensations, register our perception of being guilty of a crime as pain? If we are caught speeding and given a ticket, for example, is there not a a fine due? What if you are guilty of a crime you had no way of knowing you were committing? Or even worse, you felt that you had committed a crime, but felt you had no way to pay the fine?
 
How often does this happen when it comes to interpersonal relationships? When you cross someone’s boundary or push an emotional button that you didn’t know existed, thereby stepping on an emotional landmine, so to speak. When it comes to being a law abiding citizen in terms of judicial laws, it’s relatively easy to know how to stay compliant. Laws are written and published, though they tend to change often enough that it can sometimes be difficult to keep up. It’s not so easy when it comes to interpersonal matters.
 
To start with, each of us is given a different rule book, depending on the family, town, country, religion, nationality, etc. they grew up with. We are taught that there is a right and wrong. But in most cases, I believe it’s much more accurate to say there is a lot more to the story. Look at the political divide in the U.S. now. People can have completely conflicting views on a subject, yet both feel they are right and the other person is wrong. Bit of a catch 22, huh? Is killing wrong? Most would agree that it is. And yet we send soldiers to kill people all over the world. That’s different, many rationalize. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It really all comes down to perspective.
 
So, if we are all playing by different rule books, looking at things from different perspectives and having various subconscious woundings we often aren’t even aware of, it’s easy to see how we can so easily hurt one another, intentionally or not. To make matters worse, many of us, especially men, are discouraged from feeling, let alone sharing their emotions. That can translate to physical pain.

I will offer more thoughts on this in the future. I hope you stay tuned.

A realization on perspective

 

I had an interesting realization as I was talking to my dad on the phone a little while ago. I was trying to help him send a picture to a friend on his phone. Since we both have iPhones, and I was guiding his step by step, I thought my guidance was clear, but he was having trouble getting it to work.

Then it hit me,


he hasn't upgraded is software, so his screen looks different than mine. Even though we were both looking at the messages app on an iPhone, we were seeing different things. We each thought we were looking at the same thing, but the reality of what we saw was actually a little different. Since we couldn't see what the other was looking at, we were both getting confused and frustrated. If we could have just sat down together we could have it figured it in no time.


How many times does this happen in life? 


I see it so much in discussing politics, for example. I observed yesterday a debate where both people were in almost total agreement, but the different interpretations of one word caused them to choose to stay divided instead of finding the common ground and peace. If they had chosen to focus on what united them instead of divided them, understanding and growth may have occurred. This, I believe, is the way forward. We are so much more alike than different. We are so much stronger together than apart. My truest desire in life is to add more love to the world, and never to take any away from anyone. I believe in sisterhood, unity, truth, love, friendship, equality, cooperation and supporting those who work to make the world a better place.

Who's with me?

On Love and Music, My Return to My Self

 

Fear is a nasty thing. Sneaky and insidious, it wears many masks such as anger, hatred, apathy, and silence. That last one is the one that became my prison. Having so much you want to say, but not being able to say it. I began feeling like I was trapped in a beautiful prison of my own making. Wanting to feel connected to others, yet so afraid of getting hurt again, or hurting anyone else. This is my journey back to my Self, my heart, my core. How did I break free of my prison? I remembered that I had the key all along, a bit like Dorthy’s ruby slippers. In the words of one of my idols, Amy Lee, “I followed my heart back through that same secret door.” Love is the door. Music is my key to open it. 

Music and horses were my first loves. My brother is eight years older, so I heard the good stuff young. I heard Eddie Van Halen play “Eruption” when I was around 7. I watched Stevie Nicks sing and twirl around a stage around the same time. That’s what I want to do!! I thought. So how had I gotten so far away from music that I rarely even listed anymore, let alone made my own? That is a long, twisted tale that I intend to start sharing. Both in hopes of helping people come to better understand themselves and others, and to better understand myself. 

I invite you to join me on this journey of opening myself up to unconditional love and reconnecting with and sharing my voice. I’m creating a Facebook group for those who feel called to share in the journey of love, self expression, courage, activism, and spirituality. It’s called L.O.V.E.- Let Our Voices Elevate. If this resonates with you, clicking on the box below will take you to the Facebook group. I am also beginning to hold in person sacred circles for those desiring to come together locally to share healing energy, music, honest talk and love. 

 

The Day After

Dear Ones,

I know many of us are heartbroken, angry, disgusted and confused today. And yet I feel this underlying energy of hope, of rising up. This election season has been such a catalyst for change in so many ways. People coming together and speaking out. Women standing up and saying enough is enough, we won't be treated as less than equal anymore. People of all walks of life standing in solidarity with those who have been disempowered.

There has been much talk of the seemingly obvious similarities between Trump and Hitler, but I am seeing one huge difference this time around. This time many of us understand the lesson of "They came for the ____ and I did not speak out because I wasn't ________. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me". This time, we are speaking up. We are speaking up for the water protectors at Standing Rock. We are speaking up against so called "locker room talk" and being touched against our will. Of being called nasty when we claim our power. We are speaking up for those who just want to use the bathroom in peace, without the fear of violence or intimidation. This time, when they come for us we will all stand together.

It is time for us to all connect with our personal power and the greatest weapon we have-love. The majority of the problems facing our world today stem from fear at a core level. Love is our answer. Some might say education is the answer. I would offer the perspective that education is love. It is shared knowledge for the betterment of the world. Or, you know, love. Love is just so much bigger than we've been giving it credit for. So is fear, but that's another story. Love gives us courage, hope, drive and connects us to what truly matters.

If one thing is clear after the election, it is that we as a country are ready for change. We do not all currently agree on how that should look. But we are all in this together, so it would serve us well to really listen to each other. Listen without judgement or bias as much as you can. Find common ground and work from there. We are more alike than different. I choose love. Will you join me?

 

In love and unity,

On Climbing Out of the Rabbit Hole

I've been doing a lot of inner work lately. The really deep, Kali Ma type work that only true warrior souls will ever know the vast depths of. I've been cracked open, twisted around, pushed, pulled and shrunk so small I vanished. Why would I put myself through this, you might ask? Because I believe that to become the person you are meant to be, the one deep down in your heart you know you can be, you must do the shadow work. I had, in the words of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, lost my muchness.

Shadow work is the process of welcoming the fragmented pieces of your soul back into your whole by looking at them, understanding them, accepting them and allowing them to tell you why they've been hiding all these years. They often tell their story through tears and body sensations. The shadow self is the part of ourselves we hide from ourselves. It's those aspects of our personality that we don't want anyone to see. It's also the parts that everyone but us sees, but our ego protects us from them so well we don't even know they exist.

In having the courage to be completely present with my emotions, I've been given the keys to the city, if you will. My mind and body are starting to share secrets with me that they've only whispered behind my back for years. My intuition continues to get louder and stronger. My senses are heightened. My meditations have led me to depths of my inner being I could not fathom even existed. I've laughed, cried, had my body twist and contort itself of its own volition. It's been a wild ride, and it's not over yet. This inner work has given me the courage to step and sometimes leap out of my comfort zone. My ego does not appreciate this one bit. Like the robot in the old 60's sitcom, Lost in Space, it keeps screaming "Danger! Danger Will Robinson!", which I find a bit odd since that's not my name. But anyway.... But now, instead of ducking for cover and hiding from the fear, I invite it along for the ride. If it tries to steer, I duck tape it to a chair for a while.

This trip down the rabbit hole, as I like to call it, is coming to an end. I have learned so much about myself, life, and the need for connection with others. I am now ready to take my place as a fierce warrior for love and sisterhood. My ability to see the fear for what it is, in myself and others, helps me guide women to find their own inner truth. I feel whole, powerful and like me again. And I am grateful.
 

Saying Goodbye to 2015

Can you believe it's already the end of the year? Where did 2015 go? This year has brought so many changes, both good and bad, for so many. Our whole world has been changing at a breakneck pace. More and more people are waking up and saying enough is enough. They are realizing there is more to life than the auto pilot existence of working a job they hate just to get by, while having no time or energy for the things that feed their soul. They are questioning the "that's just the way it is" mentality and working to make a positive impact on their own lives, and the lives of others. It is scary and exciting at the same time.

What will 2016 hold in store for you? Will this be the year you decide that YOU matter? Maybe add a bit more self care, meditation, healthy food or exercise to your routine? Will you choose to speak up for your own needs, or for those who can't?

My big goal for 2016 is to move past my fears and really make a difference in the world. I want to help people find what lights them up, makes them happy and motivates them to live a life they really love. I plan on offering at least one group coaching program, as well as doing some women's circles. One of my favorite quotes by Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world." This is how I try to live my life. This is what I want to help others do. I believe that by getting in touch with our true selves and following the path our soul is laying out for us, we can be the change. We can choose love over fear, compassion over hate, sharing over taking whatever we can get. Imagine if millions of us all did this.

No. Really take a minute and imagine it.

What does it look like to you? We have the power to make it happen. Will you join me?

 

Making Friends With Your Emotions

Sometimes when we become aware of an emotion or place within us that is hurt and wants to be healed, our conscious minds are all for it, but our subconscious minds resist-

**Strongly. Instantly.**

 -before our conscious minds even have a chance to engage. There can be wounds, especially core negative beliefs, that are so deep and so painful that our subconscious will do anything in its power to try and protect us from them. When this happens, and one of those core beliefs gets triggered, it can be like one of those child's toy weighted balloon punching bags. You punch it and it sways backwards, only to immediately pop back up. You can shut down listening and any chance of trying to understand the other person or their perspective in this case. You may interrupt them while they are speaking. You may stomp off or physically turn away. You may get very quiet and pout and refuse to communicate, or pick up your phone to distract yourself. Anything to avoid hearing the thing that your subconscious thinks will pour salt in the old wound. You will probably feel a good bit of emotion during this experience. Anger, resentment, hurt, and fear are all common.

Why does this happen, and how can we move past it? The good news is that you can heal these wounds. The bad news is that you can't move past them, you must move through them. Continuing to avoid them will only strengthen our resistance and build a larger wall between us and peace, not to mention those we love. Our society teaches us to suppress our emotions from day one. Small children are taught not to feel their feelings. Instead, they are often told to stop being a cry baby, quit whining, or the ever famous "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" Anger is an emotion that most humans have no idea how to handle is a positive way. How can we learn to deal with our emotions properly when those who taught us didn't know how either? Anger scares many people, both in themselves and in others. We fear violence. We feel threatened. This leads to us shutting down anger in ourselves, and in others. The anger and other emotionsthat we do not allow ourselves to express don't just magically disappear. Remember, everything is made of energy, including our emotions. And as we know, energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form. Often times, it changes form by manifesting into ailments such as physical pain, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, digestive problems, etc. Wouldn't it be much easier then, to just feel your feeling as they arise, instead of pushing them away to let them morph into something less fun?

Really feeling our emotions can be painful and scary! We are not used to these feelings. Most of us distract ourselves as soon as we start to feel anything we consider uncomfortable. We also do our best to avoid pain, especially emotional pain. The funny thing is that we often end up causing ourselves so much more pain in the process! If we will take the time and allow ourselves to fully feel a feeling when it happens(or even later when it may be more "appropriate") it will naturally move on and dissipate. Energy is meant to be in motion. If you let that emotional energy flow through you it will then flow out and be gone. It's when we hold onto it by resisting it that it creates blockages in our bodies. Think of it like water flowing out of a faucet. If you just let it flow, it continues down the drain and on its way. If you put a stopper in the sink, the water will collect and the sink will begin to fill. Remove the stopper and the sink drains and the water goes back to flowing freely.

We tend to treat our emotional pain and injury very differently than we do the physical. Imagine if you broke your leg, but just decided it's not a big deal, and kept trying to walk on it. People might point out "Hey, have you noticed that your leg bone is sticking out of your skin? Are you okay? Doesn't that hurt? Shouldn't you go to the hospital?" You would reply, "Yes, it hurts, but I'm just ignoring it. In fact, I'm planning on doing a five mile hike this weekend." People would think you were crazy. They would probably be right. Not only would the bone not heal properly, but the wound would likely get infected and lead to even more problems.  But we do this all the freaking time when it comes to emotional wounds. Our society even encourages us to do this. "Suck it up!" "Just don't think about it." Or, for women- "Are you on your period?" or "Stop being so emotional. You're acting crazy again." But how do we expect to be fully functioning humans when we have emotional injuries that we are not allowing to heal?

So, how do we go about healing the old wounds? That is an article(or several) unto itself. Great information can be found by people like Byron Katie and Teal Swan. They offer great, in depth processes. Just acknowledging our desire to allow our emotions to teach us, and being grateful for their message, will allow things to begin to shift.

Learning To Dance With The Subconscious Mind

Our minds are incredibly powerful. Powerful enough to create our reality. This is both a blessing and a curse. What does your mind tend to focus on? What programs does your subconscious play over and over? Are they things you want your life to be filled with, or not so much? Our perception controls not only what the mind focuses in on, but our attitudes towards it. Can shifting our perception and learning to dance with the subconscious mind improve our lives?

Our conscious mind only controls about 5-10% of our thoughts and actions. The other 90-95% are controlled by our subconscious mind. The subconscious mind acts like a cross between hold music and an answering machine message. When it is in charge, those around you get the recording, “Sorry, my conscious mind isn’t here right now, so here is a recording from my past for you to listen to while I’m gone.” We usually are not even aware that this is happening. And to make matters worse, our minds will LIE to us about it! If you catch someone playing their recording, and you say back to them what they just said, chances are very good that they will deny it. And they probably won’t do it calmly, I might add. They might even yell at you.“I did NOT say that! You obviously weren’t really listening to me. I said (insert something different than what the person actually said, but that their conscious mind finds more appealing)." And they will fully believe that they are correct. Why? Because the subconscious mind(never mind the ego) does not want you to realize what it is up to! So, why does this happen?

Our subconscious mind might sound like the bad guy, often getting us into trouble; but in reality, it helps us out quite a lot. Those mental recordings that get us into fights with our partners also make it possible for us to drive a car, dress and feed ourselves, and do our jobs without having to relearn how to do them each day. Think of the millions of thing you’ve learned to do in your lifetime. Imagine if you had to relearn them each day? You’d never get anything else done. 


These programs also help us stay safe. Our subconscious mind often works together with our intuition on this one. When we are in a potentially dangerous situation, our subconscious mind remembers back to similar situations(real or imagined-that’s another thing, it can’t tell if something is really happening to us, or if, say, we are watching it on TV. Our emotions while watching TV still create the same chemical response in our brains as if it is really happening so our subconscious mind remembers it with the feeling attached) and sets off alarm bells. Our intuition picks up and decides whether or not it feels we are in danger. If so, it sends us a message- “Get out. Don’t trust that person.” This can save our lives. It can also put huge mental blocks in our way when we want to leave our comfort zone to try new things. Since keeping you safe is one of the primary responsibilities of the subconscious, it is always looking for threats. Take writing this article for example. Seems straight forward enough, right? Ha, not so fast! My subconscious mind is currently busy reminding me of several times in my past, mostly my childhood, where making my opinions heard did not work out so well for me. This then gets the mental gremlins going. My subconscious mind thinks it is being helpful. It is probably high fiving with my inner critic voice right now over how good of a job they are doing keeping me from getting hurt. Thankfully, I’ve learned enough about myself to understand what is going on. So now, after checking my email, Facebook, and having a small snack, I’m back to finishing this article. Yep. Just thinking about it enough to write it out magnified the thoughts enough to knock me off course for a little while.

So, what can we do with this understanding? How can we make friends with our subconscious mind? One of the most powerful ways I have found is meditation. Learning to quiet the flow of thoughts, or at least learning to just observe them without attachment in itself can make a huge difference. When we realize that we are not our thoughts, but the one who is aware of them and therefore we do not have to believe all of them, we gain a great power. Next, consciously work to think about things that bring you joy. The more you do this, the more your perception will shift to bring more good things into your awareness. The last step is gratitude. Remember that your subconscious is really trying to help you. Thank it! When you acknowledge it for all of the times it has protected you, it is more willing to listen when you tell it that what you are currently doing is safe and it can relax. 

With time and practice, you can learn to dance with your subconscious mind. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Any new skill takes practice. The more you reward your progress and speak lovingly to yourself, the quicker you will find changes happening. Soon, you will find yourself smiling more, doing more of the things you love, and life will really start opening up for you. It is your life. Go create it!

How To Do a Spiritual Spring Cleaning

For many of us, myself included, winter is a time of turning inward, slowing down and resting. It's a great time for mediation and self care. This past winter this was even more pronounced due to the very powerful Mercury Retrograde that occurred between January 21, 2014 and February 11, 2015. Now that spring is starting to take it's first hesitant steps towards blooming, it's a good time to think about a different type of spring cleaning- spiritual spring cleaning.

As someone who has never been a fan of Mercury in Retrograde, often dealing with miscommunications and various electronic snafus, I have to admit that this one really won me over. I'm not alone. I've heard from so many that this time was very powerful and sometimes even life changing for them. For me, it was a time of reacquainting myself with my soul. The deep meditations I experienced were like nothing I've done before. I'm very grateful for the wisdom I gained. I was actually sad to see Mercury go back direct. I never thought I'd say that. 

Now that things are back to normal and the earth is awakening from her winter slumber, it is time to start putting into action the things we learned during our down time. The term spring cleaning usually draws to mind the image of open windows and cleaning out closets and drawers of things that no longer serve us. This is true for us spiritually, as well. It's time to open the windows to shine light on our thoughts, and open those drawers and closets in our subconscious and do some digging around. What no long rings true for you? Are you holding onto beliefs that were given to you by someone else? Have you come to understand that love is the most important resource we have, and you are ready to let go of old resentments, hurts, and prejudices towards yourself and others? Remember, dear one, that love begins with you. Towards yourself. Towards others. It spreads in waves of beauty and acceptance to all who come near it. A simple smile can change a person's day.

I invite you to take some time in the coming weeks to peek into the corners and open the boxes in your mind. You might be surprised what you find in there. 

I'd love to hear if you do a yearly spiritual spring cleaning, or are willing to try it out. Leave me a comment on my blog or Facebook page or group. I'm curious to hear what you found hiding under the bed, so to speak. 

Keeping Skin Healthy in Winter

Much of the country has been dealing with extreme cold, snow and very dry conditions this winter. Even Alabama saw over half a foot of snow in the last storm. This presents those of us in the areas that don't normally get this type of real winter a few challenges that may be new. No, not driving on slick roads. I'm talking about dry skin.

This skin is our largest organ. It is our first line of defense against both injury and germs. Keeping it healthy this time of year can help prevent bacteria on things we touch from getting in. Frequent, thorough hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent getting sick. Unfortunately, all that hand washing, combined with low humidity, can lead to dry, cracked, and even bleeding skin. Even our pets are at risk of developing dry, flaky, itchy skin. This can then lead to excessive scratching, chewing and biting, which can quickly escalate to a hot spot or other skin infection. So what can we do?

I've had several people ask me lately what they should do for their pets itchy skin. Many are already taking steps towards good skin, like giving fish or coconut oil daily. Here's how I look at it. Whatever you do for yourself or your pet year round is what I call the baseline. That's what keeps everything working well under normal circumstances. What we've been experiencing lately is not normal. I have a thermometer/humidity gauge in my bedroom. Last week it was reading about 16% humidity. That's extremely low! We have officially entered "bring in the big guns" weather. For me, that means using body butter instead of or in combination with lotion. For pets, it means upping the amount of fatty acids(fish or coconut oil) in the diet, and possibly applying it topically. Some dogs will just lick off any coconut oil that you apply topically, which is counterproductive. In that case, wetting them down and applying a combination of conditioner and coconut oil and leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing can be very helpful. Just make sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards. Using a humidifier can make a difference, as well.

Some of the best choices for moisturizing human skin include cocoa butter, shea butter, and oils from coconut, sweet almond, avocado, apricot, jojoba, and olive. Pay extra attention to the cuticle area, since this tends to be the first place skin breaks occur. Also, applying a heavy layer of moisture before bed, and wearing soft gloves to sleep can work wonders. And don't forget to drink plenty of water!

Consistency is key when it comes to fighting dry, winter skin. Apply moisturizer frequently, and remember that spring is just around the corner.

Why What You Put On Your Skin Matters Almost as Much as What You Eat

The news lately is full of stories about toxins like BPA(bisphenol A), phthalates, parabens, PEG’s, and fragrance in our food and personal care products. To some, these stories sound alarmist. To others, they are downright frightening. So how did all of these chemicals make their way into our lives, anyway? Have they always been there? Who’s responsible for protecting us? Do we really need to be worried? Let’s talk toxins.

Did you know that Europe bans 1,371 toxins, but the United States only bans 11? Why is that? The FDA is the agency responsible for overseeing personal care products. So why aren’t they doing more? Let’s take a look at their website. That should clear it up…”Cosmetic products are regulated by FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). CFSAN is responsible for assuring that cosmetics are safe and properly labeled.” Sounds good. But the very next paragraph reads “FDA does not approve cosmetics, although we do approve color additives used in cosmetics. It is the responsibility of cosmetic manufacturers to ensure, before marketing their products, that the products are safe when used as directed in their label or under customary conditions of use.”(emphasis mine)1 Wait, what? Huh? So, let me get this straight, the FDA goes about “assuring that cosmetics are safe and properly labeled” but allowing the manufacturers to decide what is and isn’t safe?!?!?!! Talk about the wolf guarding the hen house. Many companies that sell products both in the U.S. and in Europe(both food and personal care) have separate formulas. They have to use safer formulas in Europe, but we get the nasty stuff here because it’s cheaper and no one is stopping them. This also proves that the companies who state that it would be too expensive to reformulate their products here to remove these chemicals are lying. They have already done so in other countries, so they have the formulas! 

So, how bad are these chemicals anyway? In these icky little chemicals you will find endocrine disruptors, known and possible carcinogens, allergens, and irritants, to name a few. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.2 I think we all know about carcinogens. Parabens have bee used as preservatives for decades. They were originally thought to be safe, but research in the last few decades has proven this to be false. 3 Allergens and irritants can cause symptoms ranging from rashes to breathing difficulty. The list goes on and on. With 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women predicted to get cancer in their lifetimes, it’s time we take a serious look at causes.4

Do you need to be worried if you are only applying them to the skin? Yes. Some molecules are too large to get in, but the skin does absorb a large amount of what is applied to it. Think transdermal medication, like nicotine or birth control patches. The other important factor is that what we apply to the skin does not get the benefit of first pass metabolism. That’s a term we use in the medical word, usually in terms of therapeutic drug monitoring, but it’s very important here. When you ingest something, it goes to the liver before being digested. This is called first pass metabolism. The liver removes as much of the bad stuff as possible before returning it to the digestive system. Some drugs can’t be give orally due to this, since the liver removes too much for them to ever reach therapeutic levels. Those drugs are either given by IV, or, you guessed it, transdermal. Whatever you put on your skin goes straight into the bloodstream without a trip to the liver. Let me repeat that. All of the ingredients in the products that you apply to your skin- usually hundreds per day- go right into your bloodstream. Do not pass the liver. Do not collect $200. 

How does the average consumer avoid these chemicals? You must learn to read labels. It would be great if we could trust that the products we find in stores were safe, but sadly, that’s often not the case. Many companies devote their money to fancy packaging and marketing instead of making safe, effective products. I’m so passionate about this subject that I’ve decided to incorporate finding safe products and educating people on why it matters into my coaching. I also sign petitions and speak out to help get our laws changed to protect everyone. Won’t you join me in my safe, healthy revolution?

 

1) http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm193940.htm

2) http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/

3) http://www.controlyourimpact.com/articles/deodorants-antiperspirants-parabens-and-breast-cancer/)

4) http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf

3 Ways To Keep Pets Safe During the Holidays

1. Cats and tinsel do not mix! No matter how pretty it looks draped on the tree, don't risk it. Cats being cats will want to play with it, then eat it. Because they're cats. Tinsel can get caught in the digestive track and wind itself around and cause blockages and possibly death.
 
2. Same for poinsettias. And lilies. Cats love to chew on plants. Just ask my pansies. Unfortunately, many plants are poisonous to cats. Before you bring a beautiful plant home for the holidays, make sure it's cat safe if you share your home with one. You can find a list of toxic and non-toxic plants from the ASPCA here
 
3. Don't go overboard with the left overs! Sure, your dog(or cat) may love a few bites of turkey and sweet potatoes, and that's fine. That's right. I said it. I do not fall into the don't feed your pets people food camp. Just don't go crazy with it. Especially the fatty parts, like skin and gravy. Most people know the day after Thanksgiving as shopping day, but most people working at vet clinics know it as pancreatitis day. Yep. People either give their dogs waayyy too much fatty food or the dog gets into the trash. Either way, you end up with a very sick dog and a very large vet bill. So just remember to give them about a quarter of the amount you want to give them.

4 Tips For Holiday Harmony

1. Make "me" time a priority. Set aside at least a few minutes every day just for yourself. Put it on your calendar. Even 10 minutes spent doing meditation, deep breathing, journaling, or talking to a close friend can help keep stress levels lowered and productivity raised.
 
1. Spend time in nature. As it gets colder, we tend to find ourselves inside more. We can lose our connection to nature and the stress relieving qualities found there. Remember your last hike? How good the air smelled? How you forgot all your problems while taking in the beauty? Even if it's too cold for a hike where you live, go for a drive someplace beautiful. Play in the snow. Take the dogs for a walk. You'll feel better for it!
 
3. Add healthy foods in with the holiday treats. It's easy to let your otherwise good food choices slip away as people start bringing in cookies, cakes, etc. to work and the holiday parties are in full swing. I'm not asking you to go without completely. I'm not that mean or naive. Just be sure to balance it out with some good, healthy options too. Make sure your breakfast includes protein, healthy fat and fiber. This will help prevent blood sugar spikes during the day and lessen cravings.
 
4. For those with food sensitivities or other restrictions, bring something safe and delicious to parties and the office. This saved me last year working at the lab. The break room was constantly full of amazing looking and smelling deserts that I knew I couldn't eat. So instead of being miserable, I made my favorite gluten free brownies and took them in my lunch. That way, when everyone else was enjoying treats, I had one too.

4 Reasons Not To Use a Flexi Lead

Every time I see someone using a flexi(retractable) leash inappropriately, I cringe. And unfortunately, that's most of the time. While under the right circumstances they can be great, most of the time they are just an accident waiting to happen. Here are my top reasons why flexi leads are not a good idea:

1. Lack of control- This is the biggest problem. When your dog has that much room to get away from you, bad things can happen. They can dart into the street or after another dog before you can do anything. They can also get tangled around people and objects. We met a very friendly young dog on a flexi lead while walking our pack on a public trail one day. Even though the dog (which was 3x bigger than ours, even as a pup) just wanted to play, the owner had no control. The leash got wrapped around me, my dog, and his leash. If I had not quickly picked up my dog, he would have been injured. The owner, sadly, was completely oblivious to what was happening. She continued on with the flexi leash fully unlocked letting her dog jump on everyone and everything it got near.

2. Lack of togetherness- Going for a walk with your dog should be an interactive, bonding experience. If your dog is 20 feet away from you, that's not happening.

3. Lack of safety- This goes back to #1. If your dog is either aggressive towards other dogs or people, or you approach another dog who is, this can be disastrous. Most of the locking mechanisms on these leashes are very weak, so even if you have it locked, a powerful, motivated dog can easily break it and take off. Even in my own neighborhood, we have this problem. We have a couple of large dogs who are aggressive towards other dogs. And both are walked on flexi leads. If one of those dogs spots another dog before the person walking them, they can charge the dog and possibly break the leash, or get to them in the length of the line. At best the other person has to walk way out in the street to avoid confrontation. 

4. Not everyone likes dogs- Just because your dog is really friendly, doesn't mean everyone wants to be his friend. Being a responsible pet parent includes being courteous to others, even if they don't like dogs. Many people think that because their dog loves everyone, they should be able to let them approach everyone. Some people and other animals are terrified of strange(or any) dog. Some might be wearing expensive clothing and not want it to smell or get dirty. Some have serious allergies. Just as it's a very bad idea to pet a strange dog without asking permission, it's equally bad to let your dog to run up to strange people or animals who may not appreciate it.

6 Ways To Fight Seasonal Allergies Naturally

1. Start early! Especially if you are using natural remedies, starting them before your allergies really kick in is crucial. Once your immune system has mounted a full attack on the pollen, it's much harder to find relief

2. "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."- Hippocrates. Raw local honey, garlic, stinging nettles tea, lots of fresh vegetables, and drinking plenty of water can all help reduce histamine and thin nasal secretions. Also avoiding dairy during allergy season can be helpful for many people.

3. Essential oils- I've been getting great relief using high quality essential oils. My favorite is combing a drop or two each of copaiba and peppermint oils with a little coconut or jojoba oil in your hands and rub together. Cup your hands over your nose and mouth and inhale a few times. Then rub the mixture on the back of your neck and on your chest. It helps for hours. Other good oils for allergies include eucalyptus, spruce, and ravintsara.

4. Herbs- These can be taken in the form of capsules, tinctures, or teas. Querectin, Stinging Nettles, echinacea, pau d' arco, and black cumin are all helpful.

5. Homeopathic remedies- I've had excellent results using homeopathic remedies for allergies and sinus problems. Make sure the remedy you choose matches your symptoms as closely as possible for best results. I've been using a homeopathic nasal spray by NatrBio* called Cold and Sinus that really helps.

6. Neti pot- Do I enjoy using a neti pot? No. Does it really help? Yes! I'll be honest, I tend to wait until my allergies are pretty bad before I break out the neti pot, because I just don't like it. It's really not that bad. I think I dislike the idea of it more than anything. A couple of tips to make it a better experience- add 1/4 teaspoon of xylitol to the salt water. It works very similar to the way cranberry helps with bladder infections, but preventing the bacteria from sticking to the sinus cavity. The other thing is to make sure the water is the right temperature. For me, slightly warmer than comfortable on the wrist works best. This makes all the difference in how comfortable it feels.

 

* I receive no financial compensation for recommending products. I just share the things that I've found helpful.

Note From Christy

Welcome to the first newsletter for my re-imagined business! They say every coach needs a coach, and I totally agree with that. In working with my mentor coach, I've come to the realization that I need to stop doing what I think I'm "supposed" to do, and do what I really love. My truest passion in life is helping animals. Animals are my heart, and always have been. So I'm in the process of redesigning my website, cards, and life to stay true to that passion. Don't worry, I'm not leaving the humans out entirely. I will still be helping people increase energy and heal from digestive disorders and food intolerances, but pets will be my primary focus. Soon I will be debuting my Healthy Pets and People Boot Camp, where people can partner with their pets (who make excellent workout buddies!) to jump start a healthier way of life for both. I can't wait to share the details with you about this exciting new adventure! I will still be providing tips and information to help you lead a healthier life, but now the pet parents will have great information for keeping their fur kids happy and healthy for years to come. I hope you will join me on this new adventure. I can't wait to see where it leads!

Spring is here! Flowers are blooming, pollen is blowing, dogs are scratching.

It's that time of year again. Pollen season. And for those of us living in the south east, it has also been a pretty wet spring. The combination of pollen and warm, damp weather can easily lead to ear and skin inflammation and infections for our furry friends. If you haven't started a regular ear cleaning routine yet, this is a great time to start! A quick wipe of the inside of the ear with a cotton ball lightly dampened with either a mixture of equal parts organic apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg's) and filtered water, or witch hazel once a week before problems start can go a long way to keep them itch free.

Is your dog starting to develop itchy ears? Here's 3 signs there may be a problem:

1. Scratching- As soon as you notice your dog starting to scratch at his ears, take action. You may also notice them scratching at their neck or face.

2. Head shaking- When a dog is developing an ear infection, he will often shake his head, or tilt it to one side. You may also notice him holding an ear in a different position than normal.

3. Odor- If you notice an unpleasant, sickly sweet smell coming from your pet, it is a good clue they have a yeast infection. Malassezia is a type of yeast that grows normally in small amount on the skin and ears, but an overgrowth needs to be treated.

The sooner you you start treating your pet's ears the better. You can often keep irritation from becoming a full blown infection if you start early. But please, if your pet has an infection, or you aren't sure, take them to a Veterinarian, preferably a holistic or Integrative practitioner.
 

Welcome To My World!

Hi Everyone! So here it is, my first official newsletter. Woo hoo! Spring is a time for new beginnings, and for me, this year it is in overdrive. The weather here in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina has been crazy, to say the least. 80 degrees on Sunday, snow on Tuesday. And as I'm learning, starting a business that you are passionate about and that serves the world is not much different. Some days are full of productivity and inspiration, and some days I feel like I'm stuck behind a 50 foot wall.

I plan to make this newsletter a monthly source of information on health, great food, yummy recipes, and anything else I think you may like.

So thank you for joining me in this journey. May your life be filled with love, health, and happiness!

Christy

Why I Don't Know If I'm a Celiac, and How It May Help You

I’ve been gluten free for 4 years now. Am I gluten intolerant or do I have Celiac disease? I don’t know. The truth is, I likely never will. As someone who does does laboratory testing professionally as a Medical Laboratory Technician, this may sound a bit odd. So why haven’t you been tested? You might ask. I went gluten free without being tested, and now it’s too late to do so without making myself very sick for a long time. It’s just not worth it. Here’s my story.

It all started with an almost constant pain in my back. I thought I had a pulled muscle, no big deal. As a Veterinary Technician, that was par for the course. Then I started getting nerve pain running down my arm and into my fingers. Uh oh. Not good. After a couple of doctors, X-rays and an MRI, I found out I had a ruptured disk with bone spurs and narrowing of the spinal column. A quick operation, a short recovery and I’ll be good as new, they said. Except I wasn’t. I had more pain after the surgery than before. I ended up with a new neurosurgeon and another spinal surgery. Two in 5 months. Not only was I left with nerve damage and an end to my beloved career in Veterinary medicine, but soon everything I ate made me sick.

Once I realized I could no longer be a vet tech, (which was heartbreaking for me since working with and helping animals was what I thought I was put on this earth to do) I quit my job and started back to college full time to earn a health science degree to become a Lab Tech. This way I could still be helping and putting good into the world, and I’d still get to look at things under a microscope. I planned on getting a part time job to help pay for expenses, but this was unfortunately about the same time we went into the recession. There were very few jobs, and most required being able to lift 50 pounds. To be a cashier? Really? So I was broke.

And then the stomach problems started. To be honest, I’ve never had the best digestion in the world, but this was different. I was constantly bloated. My stomach hurt. It seemed like everything I ate made me feel bad. I was also getting frequent urinary tract infections. My hair was thinning. I was miserable. It was my search for natural cures for my recurrent UTI’s that led me to a wonderful book by a Naturopathic Doctor named Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, called Natural Choice’s For Women’s Health. That book started me on a path of healing. My symptoms pointed (among other things) to food intolerances, and she detailed how to do an elimination/challenge test. It seemed daunting. Then the night I had my last pizza, I was so sick that my husband threatened to take me to the ER. I decided the next day to do the elimination/challenge test.

I was horrified to learn that wheat was causing my misery! But what about the muffins I loved so much? What about pizza? And the amazing focaccia bread at Macaroni Grill? NO!!!!! I was very depressed for a few days, then sucked it up and decided to learn more about food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities. At the time I really didn’t know anything about Celiac disease. I saw it mentioned a few times, but mostly as a rare disease diagnosed in childhood. After removing gluten from my diet, my health started improving. So did my research skills. I learned more about Celiac. I found out that I should have been tested before starting a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, broke, unemployed college students- even those studying to be Lab Techs- can’t afford lab tests. Or biopsies. So, by the time I graduated and got a job and insurance, I had been gluten free for almost 3 years.

Now I have two choices: go back to eating gluten every day for a couple of months, and being totally sick and miserable for that time and months after as my intestines heal again, or just not know. So I don’t know. And in most cases it doesn’t matter that much. I strive to be 100% gluten free either way. But for example, I was eating Zaxby’s grilled chicken zalads. I always felt great when I ate them. Then I found the ingredients, and they do contain a tiny amount of wheat in the marinade. If I’m gluten intolerant, it’s not such a big deal to eat them occasionally. But if I have Celiac, then even though I feel fine, it is still damaging the lining of my intestine. So I had give them up too.

So my advice to you, dear ones, is this. if you think gluten may be what is making you sick, please get tested first. Or remove it completely for a week and add it back to see how you feel. But if it’s obvious that you have an issue, make yourself keep eating it daily long enough to get tested. The body has to have built up enough antibodies against the gluten for the test to be accurate. They are working on improved testing methods for those who are already gluten free, but they aren’t there yet.

I hope this will help someone out there who is struggling with digestive problems and looking for answers.


p.s. The photo was taken just before I learned I am gluten intolerant. I couldn't understand how I had developed that donut around my middle, especially since I hadn't gained any weight. It turns out it was my poor intestines being that swollen and inflamed. Yikes! At least I had cool hair.