Lickety Split Recommendation

Naturally FreshI’m making this super fast this morning. As a follow-up to my long ago post about B.O., I wanted to put forth a recommendation to anyone out there who wants to try or has tried natural deodorants but wasn’t sure if anything really worked.

I personally did not enjoy using the Crystal brand, as it stung too much using it on shaved underarms. To each her own, though.

However, I decided not to give up on my au naturel journey and started using the brand above: Naturally Fresh. (I find it at Wal-Mart but I am sure Drugstore.com or Amazon has it.)

Previous to using this kind, I had never ever ever been a roll-on type girl. I always stuck with the invisible deodorant sticks, like Secret or Dove. (I actually do love me some Dove but I love not using chemicals on my body more.)

This has a very clean smell to it and lasts all day, providing you roll on enough. Translation: you do have to roll on more of this than you would regular deodorant/antiperspirant, which only takes a few swipes. It takes a while to get used to having wet underarms in the morning before going to work but I find the following pros have helped me stick with this:

  • No white residue on clothing, ever. And I wear a LOT of black.
  • My white shirts no longer get the yellowish stains in the pits, ruining their wear long before I’m ready to give the shirt up.
  • Paraben free! (Parabens are bad, y’all. Look it up.)
  • It’s inexpensive. I buy two of these at a time just so I don’t run out unexpectedly.
  • It doesn’t sting on freshly shaven underarms.
  • It works.

In sum, Zoe Recommends Naturally Fresh roll-on natural deodorant. As always, with anything, do your research before you buy and make sure you aren’t allergic to anything in the ingredients list.

Let me know if you’ve tried it and what you think!

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Moveaholic

When I lived in New York City, I moved at least once a year–if not twice a year–the entire time I was there (2005-2010). It sounds rather appalling for most people, since I believe it’s a universal opinion that moving sucks the worst of the worst.

It’s definitely a special challenge doing it in a crammed urban city of more than eight million people. Navigating a 14-foot moving truck all through the boroughs, including on the FDR, isn’t something I would readily wish on anyone.

The upside of all that self moving is that I got to experience a bunch of different neighborhoods. I lived in three different boroughs in five years. Out of the ones I lived in, the Upper East Side and Astoria (Queens) were my favorites. In another life where I remained a transplant New Yorker and had lots of expendable cash, I would totally live in the West Village or Greenwich Village.

Moving-SnoopyThe downside is that I and several of my friends were moving my things on an annual basis.

I suppose I should look at this objectively and think how awesome it is that I have friends who moved me more than once. My best friend moved me in and out of the apartment I shared with an ex for one year. It practically became a tradition that every Presidents’ Day, she’d trundle up to New York from DC, roll up her sleeves, and move my shit from Point A to Point B. I also had another set of friends that helped me move twice–what a gift!

I became expert at sending out moving announcements. (And let’s face it, I adored “getting” to do that, since I’m a card and stationery addict.) I also learned that there is a huge difference between movers who know how to pack your items safely and those who do not. I definitely lost a few things due to poorly stacked boxes in a truck.

Fast forward to present day. Some of you have read about our trials and tribulations in the former house we resided in when we moved from New York to Illinois. To save you time, let’s just say the house served its purpose and quickly lost any luster it held at one point.

We moved to an apartment complex where we have a townhome last July. We really agonized over that decision, because we loved having a backyard for our sweet dog and didn’t have to share any walls of any kind.

For the most part, our move was a smart idea. Where we live is in a quiet area, it’s safe, on a bus line, and we don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn or fixing things that break in the apartment.

Unfortunately, some kind of bad karma on my or Kevin’s part reared its ugly head and we have suffered with the worst neighbors me or Kevin has ever had in our lives. If it wasn’t their loud beagle, who had separation anxiety, barking and whining for hours on end when his owners were gone, the neighbors have thoroughly enjoyed testing the boundaries of human decency by blasting music, accompanied by whooping, hollering, and screaming epithets at us, all taking place throughout the work week and weekends, no matter what we, management, or the police say about the noise. (It should be noted that alcohol and cigarettes are the basis of their existence.)

The fantastic news is that they will be moving sometime in June or July, so this is short-lived (if you call twelve months short-lived).

Unfortunately, the anxiety of living next door to such gems has given rise to the moveaholic in me. I have gotten a serious itch to ditch and just get the hell out of here. It’s totally impractical and illogical, especially since these folks ARE moving. The chances of the next neighbors being this bad are about as great as my winning the next $500M Powerball lottery. I try to reassure myself with that.

But fighting my inner Cher-in-Mermaids is not an easy battle to endure.

mermaids film 2(Does anyone remember that movie, Mermaids? Seriously one of my all-time faves. Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci are a small family unit who move at the whim of the mother, Cher, anytime anything makes her uncomfortable and she just bolts. Dreamy Michael Schoeffling plays the love interest, in case you need any further impetus to watch this movie.)

Naturally, in the wake of recent events with our special next door friends, I have already looked at homes for rent in our area, if for no other purpose than to soothe the runner in me who wants to flee this place and never look back.

Winning out this time are factors like knowing that this is short-term, this too shall pass, it completely doesn’t make financial sense to move right now, and quite honestly, there isn’t much of a selection of better options. The only way this situation would improve is if a bag of money fell from the sky and we could move into a home that we bought ourselves.

Barring that miracle, I am working in each moment to remind myself of the following:

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment. – Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

To that end, I hope to be an even more evolved person for having endured and triumphed through one of the more negative experiences we’ve had in the last three years, including winning out over my instinct to run when things get rough and uncomfortable.

I’ll tame this moveaholic yet.

When Gallbladders Attack

This post could alternatively be titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation at the Doctor.”

Hi, folks. Been a while.

I didn’t mean to take such a long hiatus from writing. It just sorta happened. You’d think that when life gets nuttier, I would run to the soothing salve of writing. Instead, I tend to bury my head in the sand. For any of you who have followed me for a long time, this probably isn’t news to you. I was on a really great streak for a while though, wasn’t I?

Okay, let’s get down to business. I’ll try to recap what’s happened since last summer and what has kept me away.

First and foremost, I started a new job, which took just about every ounce of energy I had for almost the entire year. Seriously. It wasn’t just ordinary stress of starting a new job, either. It was a doozy because the department I work in was going through a major transition. Myself and my colleague (who turned out to be awesome) just kind of grabbed on to each other for dear life and had a “make it work” moment à la Project Runway, except that it was twelve months of make-it-work moments. Things are much better now. Our office made it through the first year of transition and I am hoping the really rough stuff is behind us.

On top of that, Kevin and I finally left the house that tried to kill us. We moved into a great place and are very happy. Naturally, because it’s us, I have a story to tell about the adventures in the new place, but I’ll save it for later.

Adding insult to injury, our former landlords turned out to be giant pieces of crap in human form. The home’s condition probably should have tipped us off but we really didn’t know that we were dealing with legitimate scam artists. What I’m hoping happens, thanks to karma, is that they get back what they did to us and presumably countless others. They claimed we damaged their home to the point where they felt it necessary to hang on to our security deposit. They know it’s bullshit, we know it’s bullshit. But in the end, it would have cost way more time, money, and energy to prove we were in the right (which is exactly how they exploit their student tenants), and it ended up being more important just to get the hell out of there and never look back.

I’ll put it this way: the dog food in the oven was definitely not an accident and it was definitely in retribution for these people being truly awful. Even worse is that their daughter, who assists with their real estate business, is in on the whole scam. It’s like all three of them ripped off their human masks and underneath were writhing piles of rotting flesh. Graphic? Yes. Apt? Yes.

In general, 2012 ended up being a continuation of more bizarre health issues for me, as well. I’ll say this: being in my thirties has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for cell turnover rate in my twenties. By June, I was having some serious pain in my stomach, particularly when I would eat fattier foods. I don’t experience nausea very often–hardly ever–so when I started having nausea and dizziness (and confirmed that pregnancy was definitely not a plausible scenario) on top of a really full feeling in my stomach after eating, it got to the point where I went to an urgent care center on a Sunday.

The nurse practitioner ruled out appendicitis but ordered me to get an ultrasound after having an appointment scheduled with my primary care physician. Oh, that’s another thing–I finally got away from a really crappy doctor.

I was all over WebMD and Googling all my symptoms until I could figure out what could POSSIBLY be wrong with me. On the way home from the urgent care center, I came across some symptoms of a problem that mirrored exactly what I was going through: those of having a gallbladder attack. I had pretty much every single symptom on the list and it explained a lot, including having inexplicable pain on my upper right abdomen.

When I talked to my doctor later in the week and told her I was strongly suspicious I had been having gallbladder attacks, she dismissed this hypothesis of mine but ordered me to get an ultrasound, anyway. (She was a real winner.) The ultrasound was a really non-traumatic albeit expensive experience, which ended up not showing much. I didn’t have gallstones but my gallbladder was also not functioning, either. They give you this shot of stuff to stimulate your gallbladder and then monitor how it works while you’re in the ultrasound.

My doctor was smart enough to send me to a surgeon to talk to me about my gallbladder issues, however. Long story short, the surgery was scheduled in August and I had it taken out through the magic of laparoscopy. It’s hard to describe the pain when your gallbladder is giving you the finger and refuses to work, but essentially, if you aren’t properly digesting fats in your diet, your whole digestive system just like, shuts the hell down. So my little gallbladder had become inflamed and was throwing a shit fit and needed to be removed altogether. I am in the rare percentage of people, around 5%, who have their gallbladders removed without having any gallstones. Makes me feel special, all right.

I had never had major surgery before and the whole notion of having something I was born with, a formerly functioning ORGAN just totally removed, really scared the bejeezus out of me. Kevin was a trooper and waited until after everything went smoothly to tell me he had been terrified, too. I was glad I didn’t know at the time. Being wheeled on a gurney into this cold, sterile room filled with trays, bright lights, and stainless steel utensils that you just know are going to be inside of you had me tearing up something fierce. I was and am so incredibly grateful that everything went routinely and I was just another successful gallbladder removal case. The surgeon had a sense of humor and was from New York. Somehow that was comforting to me as a scared patient.

After I got the little bugger removed and I was finally on the mend, I thought I would magically bounce back to some supreme state of being. 2012 laughed and said, “Oh, Zoe. You’re cute to think so.”

I had been experiencing all kinds of whack things that I just attributed to having a faulty gallbladder: acid reflux, tinnitus, incredible fatigue, and on and on. As life would have it, all of those things continued. Not one of them changed.

Fast forward a few more months and I finally do more research and plan to go back to get more lab work done; this time with a different clinic system. Evidently my iron levels have been in the toilet for quite some time and when that happens, it sends your entire functioning-as-a-human-being thing out the window. Extremely low iron levels can not only mimic hypothyroidism, which I thought I had, but can cause a whole slew of symptoms as I was experiencing, including but not limited to digestive problems and inflammation of organs, causing them to crash and burn.

Ding!

There is always the chance that I was always going to have my gallbladder out because all of my mother’s siblings have theirs out. So, shittygallbladderitis runs in the family. But since I’ve been my own medical researcher for a few years now and I’m still making a comeback with my health, I’d venture a quasi educated guess and say my low iron levels are the culprit of my chronic ailments.

The upshot is I was not only able to switch to a primary care physician who treated me like a human being and is a nice person to talk to, but my lab results confirmed that indeed I need to consume lots and lots and LOTS of iron to get my levels back to where they need to. As I’ve been taking my iron supplements diligently and consuming lots of delicious red meat and spinach, I’ve noticed a reduction in some of the symptoms that have plagued me for a while. By no means am I out of the woods but at least there appears to be a proverbial trail of bread crumbs for me to follow.

While it’s scary as all getout to go to the doctor, even and especially when you know something is really, really wrong, as I did, it is so much better to figure out what the heck is going on and get it taken care of. It also made me a hundred times more thankful for the healthcare plan my employer provides, because I had been without a healthcare plan since I left New York City. Having consults and labwork and endless blood drawn and a surgery still cost me a lot of money we didn’t have immediately on hand (thank you, Discover Card), but looking back from the privileged standpoint of hindsight gives me reassurance that I absolutely did the right thing by paying attention to what my gut was literally telling me.

2013 has already been a better year on the health spectrum than the last two years combined. I am hopeful the streak will continue but I have come to realize how much my health lies in my own hands. It is all about the daily self care, even down to something seemingly simple like taking iron and vitamin supplements to make sure my cells are functioning properly, which then means I can hold down a job, pursue hobbies, and walk around and do stuff like spending time with friends and family. You know, little things like that.

Last but not least, I want this to be the rebirth of getting back to mental and spiritual side pursuits, as well–like writing!

For now, je suis revenue.

Until next time, friends.