A Few Of My Favorite Things

I love sharing my favorite things – especially if they promote the use of less chemicals. If you get the chance, I highly recommending finding the movie “Chemerical” – as of 10/22/2017, it’s included on Amazon Prime video.

1. Make your own all-surface cleaner for pennies! 1/2 c. white vinegar, 1/2 c. rubbing alcohol (I prefer 91%), 2 c. water. That’s it! Blank spray bottles can be found in most aisles near cleaning supplies – not cosmetics. Those little colored spray bottles are terrible.

2. Make your own floor cleaner for pennies! 1/2 c. white vinegar, 1/2 c. alcohol, 2 c. water, 5 drops dish soap. That’s it! If it’s not enough volume, double it.

3. Deodorant/Antiperspirant: I was afraid that I wouldn’t find something natural that wouldn’t work for me, because I have HS and other issues and am very self-conscious. However, I took the leap and tried something from Etsy. Wow! I specifically went for the clay option to go for as much protection as possible. Sometimes I have to go in with my fingertips and make sure it’s spread evenly, but c’mon, people, it’s just skin! And it works! And I don’t break out in terrible hives, and the smell isn’t overwhelming! Aluminum-free antiperspirant ByJenJen

4. Cosmetics: I don’t buy many commercial cosmetics anymore. Do you know why you have to throw them out every 6 months? Because you put your makeup brush in your eye, and then you put your makeup brush in the makeup, then you put your makeup brush in your eye, then you put your makeup brush in the makeup…and you make bacteria soup. So with Aromaleigh cosmetics, everything comes in a little sifter jar. I just tap out what I want to use in the lid. Now that I’m getting (gasp!) old, I can also get matte colors instead of pearle – matte doesn’t show the creases as much. They also do a lot of face shades in warm, neutral and cool. And you can BUY SAMPLES of pretty much everything. I mean seriously, you can have a lot of fun. (Backup go-to: Meow Cosmetics. Same concept.)

5. Perfume: For the love of all that is holy, stop spraying that shit on. Stop it. It’s full of neurotoxins and stuff that makes men grow boobs and women grow chin hairs and stop being able to have babies altogether. You are the reason why girls are getting their periods at age 8. Perfume is in dish soap, laundry soap, hair spray, lip gloss, lotion, under eye cream, antiperspirant, and then you want to spray extra chemicals on your “pulse points.” You’re lucky you still have a pulse! Instead, go to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and do some serious shopping. It’s a little overwhelming at first, because they like to include poetry with their flavors. Just skip to the bottom and read which flavors are included. I also strongly suggest going to the directory and specifically looking for scents that you are familiar with or want to try, and they will list which products include those scents. I am allergic to patchouli and lavender, so I have to make sure I avoid anything that has either of those in a list. REMEMBER: ANYONE CAN BE ALLERGIC TO ANY OR ALL SCENTS, “NATURAL” OR SYNTHETIC.

6. Laundry Booster: Biokleen “Bleach” Oxygen Plus – It’s not really a bleach. It works like OxyClean but it’s got enzymes and grapefruit seed extract.

7. Laundry Powder: I tried to make my own – you can do 2 c. Borax, 2 c. washing soda and 1 c. grated Fels Naptha soap, but the fumes from the grated soap created problems for me, even with a mask on. So I started purchasing Biokleen products. I recommend either the powders or the liquids, they end up being very reasonably priced.

8. Dryer sheets: Guess what? Vinegar saves the day again! Moisten a washcloth with vinegar and pop it in the dryer with the load. You will not smell funky, don’t stress about that.

9. Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Yes, it’s Biokleen again. The Soy Toilet Cleaner is worth its weight in gold. I also use it to scrub my sink and tub if I don’t want to use vinegar and baking soda, or Borax. (Side note: Vinegar is anti-fungal – just think about how long you can keep that jar of pickles without mold growing.)

10. Oily skincare: I’m 43 and I still have the skin of a 13-year-old. It’s specifically about inflammation with me. My favorite products include Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash (seriously cheap too!), Herbivore Blue Clay Mask and Herbivore Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleanse Detoxifying Soap Bar (I got these as gifts – I love my friends!).

11. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion: I have bottles of this scattered around my tiny apartment and carry a travel size in my purse. It’s a great commercial brand that has low toxicity according to the Skin Deep Environmental Working Group Database. Are you familiar? You should be! It should be your bible! Here’s the Aveeno Lotion page.

And my favorite things wouldn’t be complete without my favorite actual things, as in the things I have reviewed, and yes, STILL use!

12. I still hang with my Oska Pulse. I stopped getting injections in my shoulder in May of 2017 after a full year, so I rely solely on my Oska Pulse to get me through the tough spots. I highly encourage anyone who has any type of pain to check it out and use it heavily. I swear it won’t cause you to grow an extra limb anywhere.

13. I use my Neo 185 Luxe Bidet every single day. Every. Single. Day.

14. Mo’s Dream Cream for pain – yes, Virginia, it still smells like hot chocolate and sledding parties wrapped up in your burrito dreams. I still use it on the regular and it has a permanent place on my bedside table.

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That Time I Went Back To Arizona

About five months ago, I decided fuck it, I’m going back to Arizona to visit. I miss everyone and everything. A few weeks after that, I figured out what started this whole thing with my brain. (Yes, I mean figured it out, not the doctors.) I knew I’d have a place to stay with friends, and eating out was out of the question, so I’d just have to come up with a plane ticket. Done. It might be my last opportunity to travel depending on how much worse the scar tissue and the brain damage gets – literally no one fucking knows.

I have about 35-40 people that I would have liked to have seen, but I was only there for about 8 full days, so it was impossible. One night a bunch of people came over and we had a little potluck and hung out. The rest of the time everyone was gracious enough to drive to me, or I took the short bus to see them.

It was my first time traveling without being able to drive, either at home or my destination. First of all, nothing can happen on a whim. It took me about 2.5 weeks to assemble all of my medications and a vog mask, and that included negotiating with the insurance company to get an override on 8 of my medications that would have needed refills while I was gone but couldn’t get in Arizona – they can only be done in Minnesota, because I’m on medical assistance. I also had to make a trip to a compounding pharmacy.

Then the day before I left, a medication I had been trying to get for about 7 weeks was finally approved, so I had to go and get that – but it was such a high volume that there was no way I was going to be able to fit it in my luggage, so I decided to start it after my return. Every time I have to go somewhere, I have to request a ride from Metro Mobility – but I’m only allowed to call one to four days ahead of time. I can’t call on the same day. So I was on a dead run (or as much as I could have been for someone who is half blind) up to the day I left.

It was so worth it, though. Arizona was all blue skies. As I’m writing this, we’re getting rain in Minnesota.

Hopefully my friends know I love them, but I forgot to take pictures of them. Apparently I shoved them aside and made a beeline straight for their animals, which I am deathly allergic to. I did a little planning for that too. One of my doctor visits beforehand was to get my regular and steroid inhalers refilled so I could start on those prior to my visit. I also packed extra diphenhydramine and Claritin (above the 12x daily dose I already take) in anticipation of the fur balls, and every time I came home from a house with pets I changed clothes and put the contaminated clothes into a plastic bag and did a big scrub down.

First were the rescued baby kittens, all black except for a few white spots on some bellies. My friend was just grabbing and distributing them around the bunch of us, and I just happened to get my soul mate – a little one who has neurological problems. It just wanted to get as close to me as possible so it curled up tight against my neck and slept. Once in a while I felt it have tremors and twitches that were not at all normal. I was laying back so the fluid wasn’t trapped in my cranium, and I swear, it was heaven. I wanted to stay there forever. At one point the kitten woke up and started putting its little paws right on my mouth. (I’m in the blue.) I did get hives, but they may not have been as bad as they could have been because apparently the night before the kittens pooped all over each other and so they had to have an impromptu bath, which they loudly protested.

Back at my host family’s house, a large lizard showed up on their property wall. Usually they do not get this big!
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I was lucky enough to be able to spend two afternoons with my friend and his wife. He was instrumental in getting me to be active on Twitter after reading my blogs, which has led to guest spots on other blogs, podcasts, and our Blab series (now deceased because they couldn’t figure out how to make money off of the platform). These two are quite funny; the male, bright orange, is loud and LOVES women. The female, green, is a lot more quiet but likes to ring her bell ball to communicate. The male will say both of their names together and then swivel his body from side to side when he is showing off or pleased.
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Next were my good friends including a couple and their live-in mom. They were usually the first ones I would call when I needed a kitty fix while I lived in Arizona – they had three kitties I knew well. Within the past year and a half they ended up adding another cat and dog under pretty terrible circumstances. Their friends relocated from another state; my friends didn’t realize there was drug addiction and abuse happening. The kids have since been placed in foster care, and the animals were traumatized. Actually, the really big, long, grey kitty seems mostly okay, but the dog has suffered terribly.

When I came to visit, I was told to expect him to pace and whimper. I was also told that I shouldn’t expect him to eat, or approach me, because anyone else who has visited hasn’t had any success even though they were animal lovers too. So this poor, beautiful dog did start pacing. I made sure that I moved slowly, and told him that he was a good boy whenever he paused to look at me. Then I put two treats on the back of the sofa and turned away from them, and eventually he worked up the nerve to get close enough to take the treats. Then he paced close enough to smell my hands while I wasn’t looking, and then quickly paced away again. While this was going on, he was carefully watching how I was interacting with each cat, making sure I wasn’t mean. A couple of times I closed my eyes. I suspect my friends thought I was tired, but I was actually sending him messages of love.

We sat down to dinner, and I couldn’t eat part of mine because of an allergy, so I put it down on a plate for the dog. Another win! And he came over multiple times to sniff my fingers. I made sure again to not be aggressive. I told him over and over he was good.

I stayed long enough to go on his last walk of the evening, which he loves. He wasn’t even confused about there being a strange lady with him on the walk until one point where he crossed over to me and then suddenly was like, “Holy shit, who is this???” and then quickly walked on the other side of the sidewalk.

At the end of the night I was saying goodnight to everyone (read: handing out the last pets to the pets), and the dog was near when I was petting the pretty calico. He was again watching very intently to see if I was being mean. So I carefully got down on all fours and made myself small, put a treat in my hand, and put my head down, and HE ATE OUT OF MY HAND. Everyone was stunned and thrilled.

My friends ran me back to where I was staying, and let me know that when they returned home, all of their animals were lined up at the door, as if they were waiting for me to return. They had never seen that happen before.

The last evening before I flew home, I was able to visit with a former co-worker whom I had the longest work history with – something like 8 years together on our team. I also remember when she had her kiddos – vividly! Our conversation went something like:
Her: “I feel like something isn’t right.”
Me: “You’re in labor. Go have your baby.”
Her: “I’m not really sure. I’m going to wait a little longer.”
Me: “I don’t think you should wait. I think you should go.”
45 minutes later: Baby.

They have two cats and a dog. I failed to catch a photo of the dog, but she was a sweetie. The white cat, Gracie, is quite elderly now, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s shit, including the dog’s. The kissy photo was taken right before Gracie got pissy about the dog bothering her. Seamus is a year-old instigator of trouble and very handsome.

Obviously the mast cell disease is preventing me from being a crazy cat/dog/bird lady, so I suppose I should be thankful.

Anyway, it was really difficult to come back to Minnesota. The night I flew home, my friend’s little boy called me and told me to come back. Sheesh, kid – right in the feels.

Invigorate Is Code For Instant Relief – Product Review

People often ask me just what it is that I do with all of my time now that I’m stuck in bed. I love writing and I count myself lucky to have been included in the Chronic Illness Bloggers network, and given many opportunities to try products I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

This product I’m writing about today is the Invigorate pain-relieving lotion that has been formulated by the Resonant Botanicals company. They indicate that their ingredients include essential oils such as frankincense, sandalwood, lavender, bergamot, Bulgarian rose and orange to make the lotion smell pleasant. Then they compound various oils to make it easy to both apply and absorb. Last, they add magnesium and methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) for painkilling properties. What comes out of the bottle looks like this:
20171018_092718As they have specifically stated, they wanted to make a product that both absorbed easily without an oily residue and smells pleasant, and that is definitely what they accomplished. Out of all of the pain lotions I have tried, this has the lightest scent. It also soaks in very quickly. I have never had to worry about waiting any length of time before touching any fabrics after applying the lotion for fear of making any permanent stains.

As luck – or unluck? – would have it, I got a nasty cold that turned into bronchitis two days after I received my bottle of Invigorate. Perfect time to pull out the big guns and really give it a go. The instructions were a little unusual for me: apply the lotion at the location of the pain, but also apply it over your spleen (left lower rib cage – thank you, nursing school anatomy class!). So for about 10 days, when I could remember in my fevered state, I would rub it all over my aching neck and then my spleen. I did notice almost an immediate relief in my neck; I’m not sure if there was any difference with rubbing it over my spleen, so I didn’t make that a priority.

A constant problem for me is the outside tendons running behind my knees. When I wake up in the morning I can barely bend my legs. Outwardly they appear fine, but if anyone could see what I feel, it’s as if someone has inserted marbles into the tendon sheaths. At night the same thing happens; the tendons tighten up and it’s painful to bend my legs or walk. I’ve taken to rubbing the Invigorate lotion into those areas behind and to the sides of my knees, and within minutes the stiffness and pain will ease up enough for me to stop thinking about it. The pain might still be there, but really, it’s just an afterthought, not ruling my every move.

Lastly, I managed to plan my first plane ride since moving back to Minnesota in 2015. Traveling wrecks me. I have to get to the airport early because quite frankly, I never know what to expect. TSA gets all handsy with their pat-down because I have to get wheelchair assistance directly all the way to the gate, and I have a TON of medications including a few injectables that have to be transported with ice packs. (Side note: I wait until I clear security, and then I sling my Darth Vader-like vog mask across my face to keep everyone’s bugs away from my mucous membranes.)

The downside to sitting first in the wheelchair for a few hours and then the plane seat for more hours is that my tailbone area starts to really hurt. I have osteoarthritis in my hips and the head of the femur doesn’t fit properly in the socket, but it’s not the same pain. I swear my coccyx is trying to punch a perfect hole straight through. I stupidly didn’t bring the lotion with me on the trip, but you had better believe it was one of the first things I grabbed when I walked in my front door when I returned. Without it my pain was a hindrance every time I sat on a firm surface for any length of time for about 4 days at the beginning of my trip.  So as soon as I could when I got back, I slapped some Invigorate on that particular spot at the base of my spine, and after just a few minutes could feel it kick in and the pain let go. I’ve had to reapply it a few times because I went to a meeting the next night and was sitting on a hard chair, but it was so much better than what it could have been without that extra assistance from the Invigorate lotion.
20171018_093113-1Quite frankly, I was surprised at how much and how quickly this product worked at mitigating pain. I do have one disclaimer, and that it can’t touch the gnarly abdominal pain in my abdomen from my allergy to the shunt that runs from my brain to my peritoneum – but then again, nothing does, so that’s not a shocker. Invigorate did a pretty good job on my neck when I was sick, on my tailbone area, and I continue to use it on the tendons behind my knees. I would definitely call it a win.

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