Friday, June 24, 2005

Health - Caroline Style

Homemade Stress Relievers

Ever get stressed? You know the “shoulders tightened, headache coming on, everything is irritating” type? When someone saying hello is equivalent to a dastardly act of ill behavior? Okay, you probably never will admit it, in which case neither will I, but just in case …

A couple of days ago I “imagined” I was feeling that way and decided to try out some pampering that I could do myself at home, with only things I already had on hand. The results were surprisingly good.

I started with a simple steam facial. This can be done by placing your face over a big pot of nearly boiling water or a sink full of really hot tap water and covering your head with a towel. Allowing the steam to warm your face for around five minutes will open your pores and increase the benefits of skin treatments.

After the steam facial, I enjoyed a honey mask. Honey is great for the skin because it is anti-bacterial and an excellent moisturizer. To make your own honey mask, use about a spoonful of honey and spread a thin layer of it over your face and neck. This should be left on about fifteen minutes and then rinsed with warm water. My skin looked cleaner and healthier after this mask, had a nice texture, and felt very soft.

For my hair, I mixed about 2 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable) and one tablespoon of honey in a sandwich bag. I warmed the mixture by placing it in hot water (the water I’d used for my steam facial.) Then I worked the oil and honey through my dry hair. The hair should either be wrapped in a towel or put in a shower cap to keep in the heat. This should be left on the hair for about 20-30 minutes and then washed out. This is a hot oil treatment without having to pay for the designer packaging!

For my evening of relaxing, I wore my mask and hair treatment at the same time I enjoyed a moisturizing bath. For this, I filled the tub with very warm water and added about half a cup of oil and a fourth of a cup of honey. This was very relaxing and sensual. Man, did my skin feel awesome! (If only I’d remembered to shave my legs first!)

After spending time in the tub, thoroughly enjoying the soothing treat and occasionally getting the yummy taste of honey on your lips, rinse off the mask and the bath moisturizers and wash the hair treatment out in the shower.

But wait! Do not leave the tub if you used up all the hot water! Standing in the bathroom covered in honey and oil while you are waiting for the water to heat up is no fun! Now, if your significant other happens to be around, perhaps you could think of SOMETHING fun to do. Otherwise, you will find yourself standing like a scarecrow in the bathroom for a very long time. (I make the mistakes so you don’t have to, folks!)

Another tool to use during an evening of relaxation or even just for a moment here and there is phenomenal: I cannot say enough about a tennis ball. It is the best thing outside a human’s touch for crunched-up shoulders. If you have consistently sore neck and shoulder muscles, bring a tennis ball to work, keep one at home, put one in your car.

To use it, find a flat wall, stand up against the wall, and place the tennis ball between your back and the wall. Roll your back in to the ball, adjusting pressure as needed and directing the tennis ball wherever you are most tight. It takes a little bit of practice, but it can really get in there and break up those little knots. I went through a year of physical therapy a while back, and this is the best thing I took out of the entire process, no doubt.

There you go! Homemade spa tips just in case you ever have “one of those days.” Until then … Caroline.

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Cedar Fever

You Give Me Fever,
In the Morning,
Fever All through the Night.
You Give Me Fever.
Cedar Fever!

I remember so clearly my first glimpse of Cedar Fever. It was four years ago. I’d only been in Austin a year, and I was taking my first real estate course. During my class, there was a woman who looked liked she was about to die. Her eyes were watering; she was sniffling and blowing her nose and fighting the urge to cough all the way though the class. When she made her excuses during a break, she explained that she had Cedar Fever. I had never even heard of it, but I thought, “Poor woman! What a horrible way to live!”

I actually pitied her.

I go through the next four lovely, peaceful years with absolutely no Cedar allergies. I watch the newscasts about the extremely high Cedar counts, but only with mild interest. I don’t even watch the feature stories on it. I smile politely at people who complain about their Cedar problems. I discuss the allergy with another non-sufferer, and we describe sufferers as “those people” - not like us. I believe I am one of the blessed few spared this scourge.

Slam! Strike one. Fast forward to about a month ago. What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks is wrong with my eyes? I can’t see. They are watering. I can barely keep them open! I look like I am crying. Maybe I am crying – they HURT! I roam around the house with my eyes open only a sliver. I have my hands over them, blocking something - I don’t know what. I fumble around. Surely there is some Visine in this house! For years, I have refused to put anything in my eyes or in my nose. Now, I am begging for something. I search and re-search every cabinet. No Visine. I see no other recourse but to go to bed.

A few days later, I seem fine again. I wonder what had made my eyes feel that way. Was it mold? Am I just getting sick? Maybe it was Cedar? I start watching the allergy counts on the nightly weather a little more closely. I try to match up my symptoms to what is high that day, but I still have no clear answer.

Strike two. Several days ago, I couldn’t shake my sniffling and coughing. Allergy medications weren’t helping. The Cedar counts were relatively high. Hmmm …

Strike three. Last night. Alert! Alert! Extremely high Cedar counts found in our area! I have no doubts now that Cedar is my problem because I cannot, under any circumstances, breathe through my nose. I take a prescription allergy pill. Nothing. I take an over-the-counter allergy pill. Nothing. I drink hot tea with honey. Nothing. I take cough syrup that is supposed to break up congestion. Nothing. I take a pill that is supposed to dry up congestion. Nothing.

(Probably you should not follow my example and start throwing different medications in your body.) But, here I am, totally and completely desperate. The congestion is so bad that I am swallowing nonstop. I go through, literally, 40 or 50 tissues within a couple of hours. There is a weird sucking feeling in my head and throat that is unbearable. I can’t eat dinner because I am unable to get oxygen when I chew. If my mouth had been obstructed by something, I literally would have suffocated.

I have trouble falling asleep, but, finally, late in to the night, I pass out from exhaustion … until four thirty a.m. Crap! The tea! I get up to go to the bathroom, and it is all downhill from there. Five a.m. - Can’t breathe. I can still get a good amount of sleep. Five forty-five a.m. - Can’t breathe. I can still get an hour; that’s not too bad. Six fifteen a.m. - Can’t breathe. What is the point in trying anymore? My day is screwed.

The first chance I got, I called my insurance company, my doctor and an allergist. I am now scheduled for the dreaded skin prick test. But, apparently, so is every other resident of Oak Hill because they are booked solid for two weeks! Looks like allergy shots may be in all our futures for years. Welcome to Austin! Until then … Caroline.

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Allergy Tests Me

Alas! My allergy adventures continue. Two weeks ago, I shared my allergy problems since moving to Austin, and now I most unfortunately have experienced further the consequences of developing them – the allergy test.

I honestly thought the test would be no big deal and just another doctor’s appointment. Shucks, I can handle a few pricks. That’s all it is - a few, right? Besides, I was told, “It won’t hurt. It’s really easy.” Because of this, I didn’t think twice about showing up at the office.

I arrived more naïve than I possibly could have imagined.

Three full hours and 105 pricks and pokes later, I walk out exhausted and drained. Here’s how it went:

First of all, I am prepared for the basics. I know that they will be poking my back, and I am comfortable with that. I put on their little gown, lie down on my stomach and the nurse walks in the room with her tray. Whoa! How many of those things does she have?

The nurse walks in with 71, yes, 71, plastic tubes covering what can best be described as the medical profession’s version of Chinese Water Torture. She marks up my back with ink, forming row after row after row after row, prepping it for the future onslaught.

I can handle this. One prick. Not so bad. Two. Still fine. Somewhere around number five, I get her timing down and know exactly when to expect the next one and also where to expect the next one. Around number ten, I start cringing in anticipation. Around 20, I notice I haven’t exhaled in quite a while. Around 30, I say, “Give me just a second.”

The pricks alone aren’t so bad, but something about knowing that you are going to have pain inflicted on you 71 individual times, each one and a half seconds apart, and each in a clearly defined location on your bare back, is purely torturous.

The nurse stops for all of maybe ten seconds, and we resume. Around 40, I am closing my eyes and pressing my lips together. At 60, I’m rubbing my head and not breathing again. When she finally finishes, I let out a deep breath and collapse my head on the table. It’s over.

Ha, ha, ha! Do you really think it was that easy?

After my timer goes off, the nurse comes back in, checks my back and informs me that anything that shows up negative on the first try has to be retested. “You mean I have more?” I ask. “Yes, and these are actually needles with larger doses.” You have got to be kidding.

These are to be done on my arms. I assess the situation. It’s a different location so it’s probably not so bad, right? Unfortunately, this time I can actually see what is happening, and I learn very quickly not to look. The nurse is sticking a needle sideways in to my skin. Sideways. Do you know how large a needle looks when you see it sideways? Mine were at least a foot long.

She starts with my right arm and injects me 15 times, and every single hole bleeds. Then, she moves on to the left arm – 19 in this one. Hooray for the left arm! No bleeding, oddly enough, but my arm is as red as can be. Finally, she takes the tray of needles away and promises I am done being pricked and poked.

A bit later the nurse examines my arms, and I notice that she seems to be doing an awful lot of writing on my report. Is there anything I’m not allergic to? The doctor comes in, reexamines me and confirms my suspicions. “See this here? You are so allergic that this grew legs and started to walk away.”

Excuse me? Did you just say I was injected with something that has the ability to GROW LEGS and WALK AWAY? What the heck are you putting in my body?

Anyway, it seems I am allergic to pretty much everything in existence, except, oh … let’s see … dogs. And that’s just great, seeing as how I live with two cats. In the meantime, I now look like I have developed a form of chicken pox that only attacks the back and arms and that only appears in symmetrical lines. Hmmm.

Hearts out to my brother, who had to endure this when only a child. Until then … Caroline.

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I Want a Redo!

Do you ever have one of those days that makes you say, “I want a redo!” One of those days when nothing goes right, everything goes wrong, and you want to run away from home?

Well, I just had one, and I hope I’m not due for another for a very, very long time.

Things that I expected to happen didn’t. Things that I didn’t expect to happen did. All of it erred on the bad side, and my attitude suffered for it, in private at least. I finally just gave up. After trudging through the day as best I could, I made myself go to bed early so I could start the day all over again the next day and have a “redo.”

And the next day, even though I was rushed and harried trying to fix things and catch up from the day before, was actually okay. It wasn’t a spectacular day, but at least walking out my front door and never coming back didn’t seem like an option I would actually pursue. What is it about life that causes everything to go your way one day and nothing to go your way the next?

While proper preventative maintenance wouldn’t have changed the problems I faced, it would at least have helped me better deal with them.

Here are several things that would have helped me, and might help you, avoid a meltdown:

1. There are some things we can’t change. We just have to deal.

2. Complaining/griping/worrying about things we can’t change takes away energy from what we CAN do.

3. We need to get enough sleep. It is inevitable that our worst days are born on the days when we are already tired and cranky.

4. Brownies do not serve as a nutritious meal - even the kind with three kinds of chocolate.

6. Housecats do not like to be “introduced” to neighbor cats so they can be friends.

7. If a housecat IS introduced to a neighbor cat, the person initiating the introduction should either be classified as insane or should wear full body armor.

8. It is better to talk to someone who is asleep than not to get it out at all. Plus, they won’t remember if you make a comment you shouldn’t have.

9. In every household and in every work place, PMS should be a fully recognizable ailment that is responded to in the same caring manner a Mom would kiss away a child’s scraped knee.

10. Not exercising on the day you feel your worst will make you reach a new worst.

11. Showers are very good “transitions” and are a good way to “slough off” a couple of bad moments.

12. Checking your bank account obsessively will not make it grow any more than planning how you will spend lottery money will make you win the lottery.

13. Have at least one friend who will not be offended when you call just to vent.

14. Getting three or more ant bites on the thumb joint you use for your computer mouse should be avoided - especially on a day you introduce your housecat to a neighbor cat.

15. Celebrating good days will make the bad days easier to bear.

16. We only can do what we can do.

17. Realize life happens to everybody, and, as Scarlett O’Hara said best, “Tomorrow is another day!”

Even as I type this with my shredded arm and my Band-Aid covered thumb, and even though my cat has a wide open play date calendar, I know it’s okay because I MADE IT THROUGH YESTERDAY! Until then … Caroline.

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One Sheep, Two Sheep, Three Sheep

We all have problems sleeping once in a while. Whether it is because we are caught up in an activity or having trouble actually being asleep, not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on the body and mind. But, what exactly does getting too little sleep do? Everyone seems to have theories on sleeping and napping so I went to the National Sleep Foundation web site to find out about all things sleep and what getting too few ZZZ’s can do to our bodies.

First of all, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Teens need at least 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep, and it is natural for them to stay awake later at night and sleep later in the morning than adults.

During sleep our brains are actually quite active, drifting between REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep in 90-minute cycles. Non-REM sleep has four stages, from drowsiness to deep sleep, when the best effects of sleep occur. REM sleep is when we dream and when muscles relax.

During sleep, the body secretes many hormones that regulate the body. Interferences with sleep can affect a growth hormone driving childhood growth and regulating adult muscle mass and can affect a stress hormone stimulating alertness. Too little sleep decreases the secretion of a hormone that tells the body when it should feel full. This causes the body to crave carbohydrates and increases chances of weight gain.

Interrupted sleep also can keep blood pressure from declining, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems, and can keep the body from properly using insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.

Too little sleep impairs daytime alertness, memory, and motor performance and causes people to feel more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. People who are awake for 19 hours score substantially worse in performance and alertness than those who are legally drunk. One night of total sleep deprivation causes significantly impaired judgment, reaction time, and recall.

Even though sleep is clearly important, sixty percent of American adults experience sleep problems, the majority of which are temporary and caused by stress.

Problems sleeping: If you can't fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed or if you wake up and can't fall asleep again after 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing, like listening to soothing music or reading. When you are sleepy, go back to bed. Contrary to popular belief, studies show that counting sheep may be more distracting than relaxing. Avoid watching the clock. Clear your mind - bedtime is not the time to solve your problems.

For a better night’s sleep: Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. Don't nap during the day or at least only nap for 15-30 minutes no later than mid-afternoon. Exercise regularly, at least three hours before bedtime. Establish a bedtime routine that allows you to unwind and “signals” your brain that it is time to sleep.

Avoid exposure to bright light before bedtime. Take a hot bath. Don't use your bed for anything except sleep and sex. Make your sleep environment comfortable, dark, and quiet. Avoid heavy meals or feeling hungry before bed, and establish a regular sleep pattern.

If all else fails, watch infomercials until you just can’t take it anymore. Sweet dreams everyone. Until then … Caroline.

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Too Much Plastic Surgery?

I’m getting a little concerned by all these plastic surgery shows that completely remake the entire person. Granted, there are probably some – to use one of their words – “extreme” circumstances under which this is warranted, but, for the most part, I am concerned this will promote the popularity of plastic surgery beyond what should be considered an acceptable level of altering the human body.

Although I don’t think I will choose this route, I can understand how someone may want to employ a plastic surgeon to prolong the look of youth one time or how someone with an abnormal feature may wish to minimize its obviousness, but I have a hard time understanding how people can be so unhappy with so many aspects of themselves that they want everything changed.

I think what some of these people don’t get is that even though they may have changed themselves physically, they still are who they are. They still will pass down the genes of the pre-surgery body. And that is something that should be taken seriously.

Right now, most people are not altered significantly by plastic surgery, but with more and more extreme plastic surgery shows, an entire generation will grow up thinking that this is normal. What happens in 50 years when we look at people and can’t tell who is real and who is not? How the heck are we going to know who we want to mate with? I know that’s a funny way to put it, but even if we put superficiality aside, we do mate based on attraction to a person. And how will we know if our attraction is real?

And do we then doom our children to the same under-the-knife fate as us? What about when the kids look nothing like EITHER parent? “Well, maybe all that labor was actually me delivering the stork,” she says to her husband, who swears the child is not hers.

I’m basically struggling with where this will lead and wondering from what this stems. Has the disparity between reality and what the media tells us is reality led to us all feeling inadequate? Are these shows feeding in to our lack of self-esteem? Do we all feel like we need to be made better in order to be accepted by others? Why can’t we get that the “real” reality isn’t perfect and just get on with our lives?

All of this is very troubling to me. If we are truly concerned about our looks, it makes more sense to take care of ourselves than to treat our bodies badly and then expect to “get fixed.” I mean, we’re not rental cars. These are our bodies for life. We wouldn’t tear up our own car because we knew we could get it fixed – we would take care of it so we wouldn’t need to get it fixed. Why do we treat our bodies worse than our cars?

Drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods, exercising, using sunscreen, abstaining from smoking and minimizing drinking – these have healthy impacts on our bodies. No, we’re not going to be perfect at doing these things, but if our infatuation with extreme makeovers stems from our insecurities, wouldn’t it be better for us to look in the mirror and think that what is good about ourselves we created – that we accomplished it – as opposed to knowing that it was just a check we wrote because we were too weak to prevent or fix it ourselves? You see, fixing ourselves with plastic surgery won’t solve our insecurities. Only we can choose to do that. Until then … Caroline.

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Dream Land

I have been having some crazy, vivid dreams lately. From stress, eating late, changes in the moon cycle - I don’t know, but I’ve been waking up every morning with all sorts of recollections. I even have had to deal with incredibly sore calf muscles the past couple of days from something (who knows what?) I did in my sleep.

Normally, dreams aren’t much of a lingering issue with me, but when I have a particularly vivid dream, I do believe it probably is relevant to my life in some way. Is the dream trying to tell me something? Is the dream a reflection of something going on in my life? Is my conscious mind having trouble seeing something my unconscious mind already has deciphered?

I always have had an interest in dream interpretation, and while there is a lot of leeway in how a dream can be interpreted, it is still fun to try to interpret my dreams (and others’.) The first thing I do is look at the dream for what it is and see if I can apply it to my life. Then, I look at the dream dictionary symbols. Many symbols in dreams apparently are quite common among people:

Being chased: You are running from a situation or an emotion you don’t believe you can overcome.

Falling: Falling while being frightened symbolizes fear of failure in love or work, a need to enjoy life more, or a feeling of isolation with a need for more support/understanding. If you are not afraid while falling, it can mean you easily will overcome adversity.

Naked in public: A public display of your nakedness means you are feeling vulnerable or are afraid of being exposed. Walking down the street naked indicates a disappointment is coming. Seeing yourself naked is an indication that things will improve. If you see someone else naked, then someone is probably deceiving you.

Teeth falling out or crumbling: If all of your teeth fall out, you are anxious about the future. If your teeth are crumbling, either you are being dishonest or an important relationship is breaking down.

Water: Think of water as an indicator of your emotions - clear and calm water indicates good things; murky or rough water indicates bad things.

Weather Events: These are very similar to water, as in many weather events involve water, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. Weather again can be an indicator of your emotions. Hurricanes can foretell a major life change. Tornadoes can mean you are feeling overwhelmed and like things are out of control.

If you are having a dream over and over again (a recurring dream), it means that what the dream is trying to show you has not been resolved. Until you correctly interpret and deal with the dream, it will continue.

Dreams oftentimes are not literal. A person in your dreams who you know may actually represent someone else. Likewise, actions may represent feelings, not actual actions. Look for context clues in the dream to determine who people really are and what the actions really mean.

A dream after a scary movie, after eating or drinking a lot, or in relation to outside noise can be discounted as just an overactive imagination or due to the stimuli and is not one that needs to be interpreted with any significance.

There are a lot of good websites and books out there that will help you interpret your dreams. Looking up in a dream dictionary each part of the dream you remember, even the small parts, likely will give you enough clues to figure out the big picture of what the dream means and, therefore, what it means for you. Until then … Caroline.

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Garage Doors and Baby Buckles

Imagine my surprise the other day when I looked out my front window and saw a strange man walking in to my neighbor’s garage in the middle of a weekday afternoon! I suspected something was not right about the situation so I walked outside and made noise in the front yard so he would know he was being watched. He quickly left, and I called the police.

Despite a quick police response, he has never been caught, to my knowledge, but at least nothing was stolen from their house that afternoon. But, if I hadn’t happened to look out my window for a delivery truck, he could have been in and out of the garage within a minute, down the street in another minute, and then gone forever with the stolen property. Why would it have been so easy? Because my neighbors had left their garage door open.

Even though there are probably many potential thieves out there, the incident didn’t make me feel unsafe, partially because I saw it as an opportunistic crime that could happen anywhere, but it did remind me of the importance of following general safety guidelines to protect my property and myself.

The first rule of thumb for every kind of safety is to remove opportunities for problems. This man was simply taking advantage of an opportunity that was staring him in the face. Had the garage door not been open, he would have walked on by their house.

One would think it would go without saying that people should shut their garage doors, especially since most homeowners’ association rules require it, but I challenge you to look at your street one day or night and see how many doors are left open. It is amazing!

Not only is that giving a thief access to your garage, but it is also giving a more serious criminal access to your home. There have been cases nearby of owners working in their backyards, criminals coming in through their open garages and then stealing things from inside the home, all while the owners were within yards of them. We think, “I’m right here. Nothing is going to happen,” or “No way would someone be stupid enough to try to steal something while we are right there!” Wrong - stupid sometimes works.

Smart can work, too, though, and shutting your garage door is smart.

A personal safety tip I learned from a friend has proven to be quite useful. Women who use purses, listen up! If you are shopping and have a purse or some other type of bag you have to bring, grab a shopping cart, put your purse in the baby seat, and loop the baby seat buckle through the handle. It’s an instant safeguard that takes all of five seconds of your time.

Obviously, even with this protection, you wouldn’t want to walk away from your cart, like, to the other side of the store, but it will make your purse harder to steal and will also give your arms more freedom to do what you need to do.

Could someone theoretically cut your straps? Sure, in theory, but in practice most thieves are looking for an easy snatch, something they can grab and run with out of the store or through the parking lot. Thieves would be very surprised to find a purse yanked out of their grasp by a baby buckle! From the bottoms of babes …

And you can use that moment of surprise to develop a very good description of him or even offer to pop his shoulder back in to place!

From having our keys ready to checking our back seats before we get in the car, here’s to everyone’s safety. Until then … Caroline.

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