Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Nature of Stress


It's not something that should be lightly dismissed.  I would know.  I, myself, was on the fast track to an auto immune disorder.  How is that exactly?  Well, cortisol is the stress hormone.  When it is present in your blood stream too often your body will start to get allergic to it. 

In January of 2012 I was under extraordinary stress.  I ought not go into great detail on the nature of my stress, but suffice it to say: we had just bought a new house, were starting a new business, juggling FIVE different houses while trying to relocate two different households, trying to get zoning for my mother amidst massive neighborhood opposition.  Add into that mix the family chaos that involved a 100 pound television falling on top of my three year old shortly after we had moved (a miracle it didn't kill him, but when I walked in and saw his feet sticking out from underneath a pile of "rubble" I really thought it was a possibility)... among other things.  Anyway, the point is: emotionally and physically I was tapped out.

My reactions were both external and internal.  Different parts of me would swell up.  Sometimes my eye lids would swell. Sometimes my lips.  Sometimes I would break out in hives all over my body.  I took pictures of myself during some of the more horrific episodes, but when I started breaking out in hives on a nightly basis...additional pictures seemed rather redundant.  The only one I showed them to was my husband.  So...ugly pictures of myself weren't high on my priority list.

This is a picture that I have used as my profile picture on Facebook. 
This is to give anyone who may not know me a little bit of context of how I normally look.  Well, on a good day and with some makeup on.  But you get the idea. 

As I was preparing some of these next pictures last night, my sister-in-law was looking at them over my shoulder.  She would gasp at each new one, whispering, "I had no idea".  Well, not many people did know.  Similar to the hair loss post that I shared a few days ago, my personal problems are not something I like to broadcast to the world unless I simultaneously have a solution to present for those who may be experiencing a similar problem. I'm not looking for sympathy here.  This is me trying to bless anyone else who is going through this and doesn't know how to fix it. 

It started with just my lips swelling up.  If my lips didn't swell I would break out in hives.  If it wasn't hives, my eye lids, facial tissue, or hands would swell up. Like I said before, it was happening on a daily basis but I didn't take pictures every time.  Here is a sampling: 

I look like I've been beat up, attacked by bees, or am suffering a stroke.  Nope that's just the stress manifesting on the outside. 

The hives and swelling wasn't limited to my face.  I broke out in hives everywhere.  On two occasions I could feel internal organs start to react in a similar manner, but doctors were dismissive because they couldn't see anything happening.

The first time it was my heart.  I felt like I was having something like a heart attack.  Everything was going in slow motion and my heart felt, for lack of a better description, swollen.  It wasn't a heart attack, since I didn't have any other symptoms like the numbness in my left arm.  But it was something.  And for me it was scary. 

The second internal swelling happened past 10pm one night.  It felt like my lungs had swollen and were foaming up.  Again, there was nothing external to clue that anything was happening.  But I started coughing to the point that I was coughing up blood.  I coughed so much and so hard that my voice became hoarse within 10 minutes.  We called my dear friend Mindy who immediately came over to stay with the children so Michael could take me to the Emergency Room.  I took a dose of anti-histamine which kicked in and eliminated all of my coughing by the time that we arrived to the ER.  The doctor listened to me, and upon hearing my raspy voice declared that I was a hypochondriac who had a cold. 

I was disgusted.  However, to be fair, this doctor probably had already been through 100 legitimate cases of people over-reacting to cold symptoms.  The only solution they could have offered me was to diagnose me with something horrible and prescribe ongoing prescriptions to manage the condition. 

My brother got married in Utah late December of 2011.  While at the reception one of my children started throwing up.  I went to assist him in the men's bathroom and found the situation very embarrassing especially when other wedding guests would walk in and see me standing there holding my barfing child's head over the toilet.  Being in new social situations, for me, adds to my stress.  I'm not an extrovert and being around strangers stresses me out.  Being around strangers while my face is swelling is even more stressful, so it was a really ugly cycle:  Embarrass.  Swell.  Embarrass.  Swell.

To this date, my lips have never gotten so big as they did that night.  The tissue on the inside of my mouth split in multiple places, unable to handle the sudden volume, and is still, 4 years later, permanently damaged from the swelling that night. 

I showed a doctor some of the pictures from that night and she prescribed to me some knock-you-on-your-butt medicine that made me a zombie and went through my breast milk and made the baby loopy.  I didn't like taking it.  On days when I felt overly stressed I really had to weigh my options: zombie vs. hives.  I eventually dumped it all out down the toilet. 

The bottom line was: the medicine didn't FIX the problem.  It "managed" the symptoms.  I use air quotes because I can hardly qualify what it did to me as managing.  No spank-you. 

So, the solution. 

The FDA has declared that people who are selling homeopathic remedies cannot discuss specifics of what certain approaches do.  They cannot make claims.  They cannot give specifics.  I, do not, however SELL essential oils.  So, I can tell you all about it. 

I showed my friend Denee one of my more recent pictures of my horrific ugliness and told her that I was breaking out on a nightly basis.  She had just been introduced to DoTerra essential oils and signed up to be a distributor.  She rubbed some essential oils on the back of my neck (and at the time she said what they were, but I honestly don't remember now what it was).  She probably used lavender, or Balance, or Serenity. 

I never had another full horrific break out after that.  Just like that. 

No more lip swelling.  No more hives. 

Essential oils took the mess that I was and basically calmed my system that was swinging so wildly out of control and just simply and quietly brought everything back into alignment.  I mean....  I didn't even have to use them over a long period of time.

Now, I have had moments where I get stressed.  I will put Balance on the back of my neck or rub Serenity over my heart, and it helps. 

Here's the advantage.  I was never formally diagnosed as having an autoimmune disorder.  I didn't have to use nasty zombie-inducing prescriptions for the rest of my life. 

If I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed, I will take Valerian Root which helps me relax and sleep well during the night.  It smells like stinky feet, but it's natural and it REALLY works. There are no weird side effects.  I get to feel like myself.

I am still allergic to my own stress.  How do I know this?  One particularly stressful day this past October or November I went to bed without doing anything to address my stress from the day.  Neither Valerian Root nor any of my essential oils.  At 3am I woke up and the white of my right eye was red and  swollen.  It was itchy and bulging past the iris like a juicy boiled egg. 

I didn't take a picture of that one, but you can google one to give you an idea of what it looked like.  It's gross.  

My first connection that any of this was connected to an auto immune disorder was THIS symptom.  I did some research and swollen whites along with all of the other nasty swelling, hives, etc. were all textbook identifiers of autoimmune disorder. 

And just so I would know that they weren't kidding, DEATH is one of the complications. 

Stress leads to death.  It's no joke. 

We have come a long way in the medical field.  No longer are we giving leeches to people to drain the bad blood, or going from patient to patient without washing hands.  But something very effective and essential has been lost along the way.  The natural remedies that our forefathers depended upon were lost.  Fortunately they are making a comeback in a BIG way.  Why?  Because they work.  And rather than masking symptoms they actually fix the problem.  I'd say that's a much better approach, any day of the week.

I have much more to say concerning Essential Oils and all of the amazing ways they have blessed my family, but I wanted to focus on stress in this particular posting. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Baldness. The Embarassing Truth Before Regrowth.

Three years ago I took a family picture.  My hair was starting to thin, but I managed to hide a lot of the loss with the volume that was otherwise made up by my naturally curly hair.  I got away with it for some time.
However, due to stress (another post entirely) and post baby hormones, my hair started falling out to the point that I was looking like a drown rat.  The length was still there, but I was looking like a homeless, scraggly mess.  I first realized this when one of my children took a picture of me from behind and I saw the gaping holes in my hair.  I lost my patience with myself and took a pair of scissors and chopped off the length of skinny pony tail I had left.  The next day I went to my friend and professional hairdresser who had to try to fix my compulsive moment of frustration.

I was hoping with short hair that perhaps I could get some of the volume back.  I tried taking high doses of biotin and rubbed jojoba oil into my hair to clean out the follicles.  My hair continued to fall out and now my shorter cut was no longer able to mask my onward march toward baldness. 

I'm not normally a very vain or high maintenance person, but female baldness is beyond even my threshold for feeling good about myself.  Summer of 2014 rolled around and I had precious little hair left. 

I started researching hair loss causes, solutions and had to wade through a lot of commercialized hype.  Anything that sounded fantastic would be revealed as a complete fraud on an independent review outside of the promotional website. 

Let me cut to the chase.  There is a hormone called DHT that is primarily responsible for hair loss.  Dihydrotestosterone (commonly abbreviated to DHT), or 5α-dihydrotestosterone.  Do you see the testosterone that is involved in that name?  I'll let your imaginations go wild and place the blame  as you will.  (As a side note: this was AFTER my stress was managed through homeopathic, natural means because stress, when unchecked, can lead to autoimmune disorders where hair loss is one of the side effects).

I found two products that were highly rated on Amazon from people who had actually used them.  One was a caffeine shampoo made by Ultrax.  Another was a generic herbal supplement (Saw Palmetto) that, based on my research, was an effective and natural DHT blocker.  I did try some of the specific DHT blocker mixes (Ultrax Hair Maxx) but I ran out quickly and for the price, it didn't seem worthwhile if my much cheaper Saw Palmetto accomplished the same thing.

I took some before pictures on August 30, 2014 with some confidence that I would have some results to compare within a few weeks.  A little more than a week later (Sept 8, 2014) I saw some of the immediate growth that had been reported by other users. 

WoW!  It was like I had a whole new crop of bangs coming in!  I knew that it was working!

One note about the Ultrax shampoo:  As a shampoo, it really stinks.  It doesn't foam up and clean unless you use a LOT.  With the price of it being nearly $50 for a puny little bottle, it's not something that I want to have to use a lot of each time.  So I would wash my hair with my normal shampoo to get it clean and then use a single pump of the expensive Ultrax shampoo and it would foam up and get distributed throughout my hair much better.  I'd let it sit for as long as possible to make sure that I was getting the most benefit. 

I kept taking the Saw Palmetto both morning and night and using the caffeine shampoo.  The more expensive Ultrax DHT-blocker mixed vitamin ran out within a month, but I didn't get any more due to the price.  I figured if I saw any negative effects or hair loss I could always get more.  But things kept chugging right along just using the Saw Palmetto as my DHT blocker.

I took the kids to the Exploritorium for a fun Science field trip in January.  While there I climbed into their triangular mirror exhibit.  I saw the back of my head for the first time in months.  I was AMAZED!  I didn't see my scalp, but my hair had actually filled in and looked full.  Hallelujah!  So four and a half months after I had begun the regimen, on January 11, 2015, I took a second set of pictures. 

If you notice, my hairline regrew, whereas before it was VERY receded.  The hair looks thicker and my scalp was not showing through.  I took both set of pictures with wet hair right combed back so that my curls wouldn't mask what was going on. 

I've kept up the process with Saw Palmetto and the caffeine shampoo and at this point I'm just working on getting my length back.  When I comb my hair now the pick drags quite a bit more through the new thickness. 

There is a prophecy from Isaiah about the daughters of Zion having baldness instead of well set hair.  Before I found a solution to my hair loss I felt rather like I was personally fulfilling the prophecy.  But I know I'm not the only one who may have this problem.  So as embarrassing as it is to post this for the whole world to see, I feel obligated to share this with my sisters who may also be experiencing this very embarrassing affliction.  I have gained so much from all that you share.  This is me paying it back. 

As a recap, here is a progression of regrowth side by side:


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Prejudice, Discrimination and Daycare

My mother, my sister-in-law (Kristi) and I all cooperate in doing [brand] Montessori child care.  We each run one of the three [brand] locations.  I'll just come right out and say it:  We're expensive...but parents are lining up around the corner trying to get in.  Why?  Because the bar is SO high.  Our graduates go to kindergarten reading at a first grade level having mastered all of the basic kindergarten skills already.  So, essentially they're bored and have to go to private school to be challenged. 

New House

Kristi's landlord is getting a divorce and needs to either move into her house or sell it.  He has been fantastic and very supportive of what she's doing so we really appreciate that he gave her so much heads up.  Moving can be a hassle.  Moving your own personal household AND a fully operational daycare into a new house which requires city zoning permits, fire code inspections, State licensing approval all without causing any lost time for the 19 families that she serves is....much...more...complicated. 

We've done it before.  When my mom moved from her house on [Name] court the kids left on a Friday, we made the final big push over a WEEKEND, and the kids resumed care as if nothing had happened on Monday.  We made it look effortless.  HA!

Kristi leased a six bedroom house on a quiet cul-de-sac with an impressive view.  I am SO excited for her to have more personal space than just her own bedroom.  The whole upstairs has a bedroom twice the size of what she has now.  There is an office for my brother, another upstairs bedroom for Kristi's projects and sewing machine and a balcony library area.  They will even have space for the baby that they are trying to adopt (another rant entirely...but I digress).  The house itself has a LOT of potential and she got it for a deal because it was handed over to them in basically dilapidated condition.

When I say dilapidated, I am being extraordinarily generous.  The landscaping was completely overgrown with a non-functional irrigation system.  The whole house needed to be painted.  Doors, walls, molding.  Fixtures are original from the 1970's when it was built.  There is an internal window that has vapor intrusion and needs to be replaced.  

Kristi has already poured thousands of dollars into this house making it beautiful and well kept.  It is not a blight on the neighborhood anymore, but actually has curb appeal.  The inside is looking amazing.  She has color coordinated the rooms and taken great pains to make all the lines precise and perfect. 

Making the Transition

So here's how this works:  Kristi has to get the lease and THEN she can submit the application for Benicia zoning.  After the zoning is approved the fire marshal comes out to inspect, THEN a state licensing analyst comes out to inspect and either approve or deny her application.  The process takes MONTHS.  For any of you who is a bean counter you're probably going....WAIT!  Doesn't that mean that she has to pay rent on the new place while all of this preparatory stuff is going on?  WAIT!  Isn't she still living and operating her daycare out of another house which she is ALSO paying rent on?  BINGO!  You win a cookie. 

Double rent.

Let me just say that again and let it sink in:  DOUBLE rent.

Rather than paying (and I'll just use generic numbers here) $2500 for one house....she is paying $5000 a month for TWO houses because of all of the regulatory hoops that she is forced to jump through.

Kristi got her lease mid January and immediately submitted the application to get Benicia zoning approval.  When I got zoned for our house in Benicia three years ago, the radius for neighbor notification was only 100 feet.  Since then the city has increased the radius to 500 feet.  Before the notices went out to any of the neighbors, Kristi went around and personally introduced herself to all of the neighbors.  She told them that they would be moving into the neighborhood and that she runs a childcare out of her home.  They were all very welcoming and her face.

The zoning administration meeting was held on Tuesday, March 10th at 3pm.  Anyone who wanted to speak was given 5 minutes. 

Fortunately Christine, one of Kristi's clients for the last three years and now her personal friend, stood up and spoke of the extraordinary care that she offers.  Cleanliness, sanitation, extremely high standards, superb education, self-discipline and respect.  She vouched for the families who are enrolled with Kristi.  Not only are they all from Benicia, but represent some of Benicia's most respected and successful families. 

That matter was settled.  There will be no riff-raff.  None of the neighbors questioned the quality program that she runs.  Fantastic!  But the neighbors were undeterred.  There shall be no day care HERE!

There were roughly 20 neighbors present and they might as well have had pitch forks and torches.  They brought with them signed petitions from the neighborhood watch all objecting to her being there.

Traffic & Safety

The neighbors all (SAVE ONE, who actually spoke on her behalf) stood up and passionately testified that UPS and FedEx trucks were going up and down the street ALL DAY LONG.  Every single one complained bitterly about the delivery trucks and the constant traffic on that street. 

Golly gee.   I've been over there a BUNCH over the last two months to help with landscaping and paining and not ONCE have I seen a single delivery truck.  Weird.  The way they were describing it, it's a veritable delivery truck parade all day long and all through the night.

Kristi called both UPS and FedEx the next day to ask about their delivery practices.  Once per day per company at most.  On the rare occasion with UPS if there is a drop off and pick up AND the driver doesn't have room they'll send a pickup truck later.  That would be a grand total of THREE.  1...2...3 under the very worst conditions. 

So, their problem is not necessarily with Kristi herself, no... no... it will be (and I'm getting these numbers from a neighbor who got up and spoke) the 56 to 70 extra car visits that will be generated by having all of these families dropping off and picking up all day long.

Soooo....drop off is usually between 7:30 am and 9:30 am.  Pick up is usually between 4pm to 6pm.   All the parents are working according to their own personal schedule and there are no detentions or referrals given for being "late" when the bell rings.  There is no bell.  There is no traffic other than the one solitary car very calmly pulling into the driveway every 10-15 minutes or so over a two hour period.

The traffic around schools will tie you up for a good 20 minutes.  But that's 300 some-odd parents trying to drop off and pick up at the EXACT SAME TIME.  (Enrollment at Matthew Turner is approximately 500, so let's just assume there are a few sibling sets).

With childcare, parents will overlap maybe with two crossing paths.  For everybody to show up all at'd have to plan that.  On purpose.  Otherwise it's just not going to happen.  Ever.

Andrew, another of Kristi's clients, spoke as an authority on daycare traffic in a court.  You see, he was one of my mother's neighbors when she lived on [Name] Court and started doing childcare.  His son started attending at 3 months old and is now 4 years old.  Andrew assured all the neighbors that large license daycare traffic on a court is hardly noticeable at all.  They scoffed and audibly said that he had no idea what he was talking about.  All righty then.

As for the 56 to 70 extra cars.  I'm not sure what kind of Common Core math he was using but there are only 12 families on any given day.  Some days siblings come together so the number of cars would be even less.


Calm down.   Not every child comes every day of the week.  You could serve 5 families and still only have 1 child on site during the week.  That's because each of those families only needs care on one day of the week.  It would be a different child each day.  You still only have one child on any day and still serve 5 families.  See how that works? 

One of the other concerns was that with all the traffic that a child could be run over...because the children would all run unsupervised around the entire neighborhood in only their saggy soiled diapers with dirty faces screaming at a volume that is actually louder than full-grown construction workers using power tools  (not my analogy, just citing a concerned neighbor here).  It would be like Lord of the Flies every day of the week.  And children would be getting run over and killed on a daily basis by the parade of delivery trucks that we mentioned earlier.  Totally valid concern.

Let me address it with this:  Children are not allowed to play in the front yard.  Ever. 


People have heard older children.  It's because they are bigger and louder.   And on a school campus they congregate in MUCH larger numbers.  Kristi serves children that are mostly 5 and under.  Oh, six year old in occasional afternoons after kindergarten.  You got me.

When the eight toddlers are out playing the four babies are sleeping and visa-versa.  Eight toddlers or four babies.  Either way I doubt you'd even hear them from the street.  The neighbors on either side might hear some tinkling laughter or light bubbly conversation if they stand at the fence.  But my own estimation of noise is not a hard fact.  I'll take my husband's decibel meter and report back actual numbers.  Is comparing a few small children playing to construction workers using power tools fair?  Maybe.  Only the numbers will tell. 

Home Value

One of the neighbors accused Kristi of trying to take money out of their pockets because housing prices would inevitably drop with her being there. 

When I got zoned for my location the neighbors sent letters in opposition saying that the housing prices would plummet because nobody wants to live next to a daycare that is running 24-hours a day all week long with 14 children and all the excessive traffic that would generate. 

Because I have children of my own I was required to get zoned as a large license day care. I took care of 3 extra babies in addition to my own. 

I was approved in the first hearing despite minor opposition.  My mother has since taken over my location and is now operating with 12 children.  Since we bought three years ago the home values on our street have all gone up over $100K and the neighbors still haven't made a peep about traffic.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

My mother got up near the end and in true Claudia form, flatly pointed out that the state of California has passed legislation prohibiting cities from preventing in-home day care.  The city can place reasonable stipulations regarding parking availability and noise limits, but they cannot deny the use/zoning permit.

Many of the neighbors, who were already showing a great deal of respect and class by heckling any speaker who rose on behalf of Kristi, roared in unison at the very presumptuous notion that they did not actually have the power or authority to ban such unsavory types from their neighborhood.  Ah, for the good ol' days when arbitrary discrimination was the way to keep your area pure. 

One of the neighbors, an elderly African American woman (that part is relevant, stay with me),  stood up and angrily pointing to Kristi growled, "I can't believe the landlord would rent to people like them!"  Wow.  Really?  Do you not see the irony here?

Landlords cannot discriminate.  The city cannot prohibit.  Gerry Raycraft will be on the scene shortly to educate and ensure that California State Codes are followed.    Google him.  I dare you.

The city, for whatever reason, thinks that sending out notifications to all the neighbors is a good idea.  Let's just take a baseball bat to a beehive, shall we?  Giving them a false sense of power over the fate of a young, hardworking housewife doing daycare is too tantalizing to pass up.  Delusions of grandeur regarding parades of traffic, constant deafening noise, children running unsupervised through the streets... no matter how well articulated, will never, in any realm of reality, actually happen. 

After Claudia told the neighbors that the zoning approval was inevitable no matter how long they drug it out, someone indignantly shouted, "Welcome to the neighborhood!"

Yes, welcome to the neighborhood where we will try to destroy your livelihood, cost you thousands of dollars more in ongoing rent for a vacant house that cannot be occupied until certain stipulations are met, and sign petitions with the intent purpose of prohibiting you from living here. 

Which Would You Prefer?

Well, guess what neighbors?  Since you have all been so welcoming and charming in so many fantastical ways....Day care is not the only option on the table.

You see... Kristi has been a foster parent in the past.  She is legally allowed to have 2 foster children in every bedroom.  She has six bedrooms.  You do the math.  Foster children are usually much older...we are talking teenagers now, who cannot be confined to the backyard for quiet play in the sandbox and have afternoon naps.  They would be LIVING on your street 24/7.  There is no zoning requirement to do foster care.  You could squawk and scream all you wanted without a single wisp of recourse.   Because rather than having the sweet babies and toddlers from upstanding Benicia citizens, you would be guaranteed to have just as many teenagers all from troubled backgrounds roaming the neighborhood.  With equally unsavory parents coming to visit them while they work through their personal demons with drugs, alcohol, abuse or whatever the vice may be. 

Kristi and James WILL be living in the neighborhood.  They have signed a lease.  They have been given plenty of notice from their current landlord who has extenuating personal circumstances. 

You don't want daycare in your neighborhood.  Fine.  Well, consider the alternative for a moment and then think really hard what you REALLY want for yourselves.

In Conclusion

Of course, Kristi is far too kind to say any of this.  But I am angry.  Because this whole process is ridiculous, overly burdensome and completely unnecessary given the California codes that states that it cannot be restricted anyway.  Why rile the neighbors up at all?  They probably wouldn't have even noticed that the day care was in operation except seeing the babies going out for their morning walk in the 4 passenger stroller.   

Kristi told me that after the meeting she felt like she was in shock.  She had never felt so much animosity and hatred all directed at her.  She felt sick that her entire life savings would be wiped out in the next few months because neighbors have taken their grievances with another neighbor's home based business out on her. 

How is that fair, exactly?

Anyway this is my blog so I'll rant if I want to.