Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Air quality control, the greenery way

As winter bears down upon us, those of us living in the colder climates are spending our days in closed up homes and offices. That means we're breathing in stuff we probably shouldn't be. 

Did you know that houseplants can improve the air quality indoors? Having the right plants around is especially useful when you're doing home improvements like painting or installing new carpets or flooring, or even when you get new furniture. 

Here's a list of plants that are perfectly suited for various rooms in your home and workplace:

  • Aloe Vera -- This is a good plant for every room, as it's one of the best in cleaning your air.
  • English Ivy -- Perfect for the bedroom or basement, as it's been known to reduce airborne mold by as much as 94%!
  • Jasmine -- Every bedroom needs a jasmine plant! Jasmine helps improve the quality of sleep you get. If I had a nursery, there would definitely be a jasmine plant up on a shelf above the crib!
  • Lavender -- Again, an ideal choice for the bedroom. It's also a good choice for the office, as lavender is known for its stress-relieving properties.
  • Rosemary -- Why not pair a rosemary plant with the lavender in your office, since rosemary works to improve your memory. Maybe it'll help you avoid those, "What was that word?" moments at the computer.
  • Snake Plant -- If you experience headaches, a snake plant might be the answer in whatever room you spend a lot of time in.

Finally, I want to mention a list of plants that thrive on sucking up formaldehyde, one of my worst offenders for my chemical sensitivities. One or more of these plants are a MUST in offices full of pressed wood furnishings and commercial carpeting. Place them everywhere that formaldehyde is polluting!
  • Boston Fern -- This plant is known to positively devour formaldehyde. They also dig benzene and xylene, so keep 'em close to your attached garage!
  • Palm Trees -- Particularly the Dwarf Date Palm if formaldehyde is your primary concern. Areca and Lady Palms are also good choices.
  • Rubber Plants -- Here's a perk -- they do really well in dim light. Perfect for an interior office with no windows!
  • Dracaena "Janet Craig" -- Ditto the above perk.
  • Peace Lily -- It will also take care of some of the VOCs in cleaning products, if you work in an office building where harsh cleansers are used.
  • Philedendron -- Extremely durable, but keep it out of direct sunlight!
  • Spider Plant -- According to a study at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, the spider plant is the winner when it comes to eating up formaldehyde. Why not place one beside your Boston fern and let the competition begin!
Now, in this season of indoor gardening, let's put up a fight against the indoor pollutants that are hurting our families. Let's go green as in greenery!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

It's about those pesky nightshades

Photo courtesy of George Hodan

"Fibro? Yeah, my sister-in-law has that. You know what you should do? Avoid eating..."

"Arthritis? My mother's doctor told her to take..."

"You think you have bad joints? I could barely walk until..."

We've all heard it, right? Everyone has an opinion on what will help ease your pain. That is, unless you're one of the lucky ones who don't suffer from fibro or arthritis or any of the other body pain-related ailments. 

I've suffered from EBVS (Epstein Barr Virus Syndrome) since before it even had a name. I was 16 when the first episode hit and it landed me in bed for months. The only good thing about it was that I was excused from gym class for an entire year.

Later, fibromyalgia was added to the mix of the pain cocktail I was living with. Fun times. 

As a young mom, I was pretty much useless when it came to caring for my kids. I couldn't lift them and I often fell asleep while they were playing at my feet. It was scary time. Eventually, we discovered that the main trigger for the EBVS flare-ups was chemical-related. Once I started eliminating chemicals from my life, I got better. Unfortunately, it took years for me to figure out that cleaning and laundry chemicals were some of the biggest culprits. These days, I have fewer bouts with the disease, although the fibro continues to plague me with joint pain and weakness.

That said, I'm going to join in with the well-meaning folks I quoted in the beginning of this post and offer some advice on what has helped me. Keep in mind, not everything works for everybody. Our bodies are different and respond differently to nearly everything.

Two things that really help me are:
1) Organic bone broth
2) Turmeric (supplements and the spice). I've found the most relief taking Organic India's Turmeric Formula.

Most recently, I've discovered the advantage of avoiding nightshade vegetables. I'd been told about this a few years ago, but ignored the advice, mostly because I didn't want to give up something I enjoyed eating. Then, about 6 months ago, I stumbled upon a Facebook posting about it and decided it was worth trying. 

It meant giving up nightshades, which included potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. It also meant the end of using paprika, one of my favorite spices. I was pretty convinced it wouldn't work, so I gave it a try. And guess what? It worked. The pain level was significantly decreased. As a matter of fact, for the first time in years, I was pain-free at times. Until you've lived with chronic pain, you can't possibly understand what a miracle that is!

You probably have a couple of questions. First, what's a nightshade?

Collectively, this species of botanical plants (known as Solanaceae) number close to 2,500. While most are not to be consumed at all, others are so common in our diet that it really is difficult to eliminate them (like the ones mentioned above). Click here for a full list of nightshades, along with warnings about homeopathic medications and OTC and prescription drugs, as nightshades could be used as fillers, etc.

Second, what's the problem with them?

Most research points to the alkaloids in nightshades. Alkaloids can produce inflammation; thus joint pain and swelling.

For some, consumption of nightshades is linked to chronic pain. Perhaps there is an allergic reaction involved, because not all people who consume nightshades experience joint stiffness, swelling, and debilitating pain that others live with. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, every body is different. But that doesn't mean that eating potatoes or tomatoes isn't the source of your pain. It well might be. 

For me, potatoes seem to be the worst trigger. I avoid raw tomatoes, but cooked sauce doesn't seem to bother me. It's all about experimenting and finding out what works best for you.

If you're seeking a reason why your pain flares at certain times, perhaps keeping a food diary would be a good idea. Or try avoiding nightshades for two or three months and see what happens. The difference it made for me was dramatic and quick. 

Maybe you've already done your own experiments and discovered your own triggers. Dairy? Gluten? A combination? Share your story below in the comments. Maybe your personal experience will help someone else ease their own suffering.

I'd love to hear your stories!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The above is simply an observation I have made based on my own experience. Always seek the advice of your physician.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Swiss cheese hearts

Today would have been my mother's 91st birthday. Next week will be the five-year anniversary of her death. I still can't believe she's been gone that long. 

Five years ago today, my husband and I were in Manheim, Pennsylvania visiting with her. The night before her 86th birthday, we played 13 hands of Pinochle. She kept score. And she beat us nearly every hand. Although her body was plagued with pain (I blame the Lipitor her doctor prescribed), her mind was still sharp. She remained in the home I grew up in, did her own chores and laundry, and was still driving (although that was starting to be a concern). Her plan for that year was to sell the house and move to a retirement community in Pittsburgh so she could be near our family and watch her great-grandchildren grow up. It was a good plan; one we all looked forward to. But it never happened.

Life's like that, isn't it? We dream. We plan. We love. And we lose. Over and over again, especially as we age, we attend funeral after funeral. Sometimes we have the chance to say goodbye. Often, we do not.

Time goes by and grief remains, although the years tend to muffle it. Hearts become drafty, with Swiss cheese-type holes throughout. We are not alone in our experience of suffering. Hour-by-hour, folks join our clubs; the clubs for widows, for orphans, and, worst of all, the club for the unnamed -- parents who've lost children.

We can't escape it, so there's no use trying. Embracing the "I am a rock" mentality Paul Simon sang about is pointless. Why? Because in the attempt to avoid the pain of loss, you live with the constant pain of loneliness. It's simply not a good exchange.

The good news is we can experience the joy these people -- spouses, parents, friends, siblings, and, yes, even children -- have brought to our lives, for however long they were here with us.

For me, my mom was with me for 55 years. How wonderful is that? 

So, today, rather than focusing on her death, I'm celebrating her 86 years and the 55 she spent loving me. 

I am blessed.

Who are you missing today?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A promise (I hope) for the new year

Ahhh... a new year is upon us. One brimming with possibilities.

This one, at least for us in Pittsburgh, is starting off to be a cold one. Even my kitty, Vincent Van Gogh, is bundling up to stay warm.

2017 was a year of major changes for me, although my family came through it intact. No deaths. No births. No one added and, thank God, no one subtracted.

Unlike the previous year when we experienced 20 deaths (family and friends), this year the changes were good ones. Yes, my husband did suffer a major heart attack in October and I almost lost him, but the fantastic part is I didn't!! 

My changes were work-related. I just completed 13 months at my new job -- a job that takes me out of the comfort zone of my own home and into an office setting. I haven't worked full-time outside of my home since 1982. This was a huge change for me. And it came with a cost. As manager of Dignity Home Care Professionals in Pittsburgh, I no longer have the time to devote to the blog as I once had. I'm still operating my other business, Speechless, which specializes in writing, editing, and voice-over work, and while I'm not actively pursuing new clients, the old ones still keep me busy from time-to-time. 

I felt I needed to apologize to you, the faithful members of the Green Grandma community, who continue to drop by occasionally, perhaps in hopes of something new, only to find out I haven't posted in weeks. I am truly sorry. I even ended up dropping my monthly installments of Vinegar Fridays

The crux of the problem is that I don't like posting content that isn't well-researched and is useful to you, my readers. And I simply haven't had time to present you with that kind of content.

That said, I will add that I am not shutting down the blog. I will try to post something weekly throughout the new year. And, of course, I love featuring guest bloggers. So... if you have something you would like to share with the GG community, let me know. You can reach me at greengrandma@comcast.net. I look forward to hearing your ideas. Perhaps you have an Instant Pot recipe to share. Or an environmental cause to support. Or a car seat safety tip you've not seen elsewhere. Whatever it is, pitch the idea to me and we'll see what we can do. 

So keep coming back in search of some useful tidbits that help you navigate this thing called life. I strive to spread kindness while encouraging you to live greener and healthier lives. 

Thanks for sticking with me.

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