healthy living

Keys to a Better Life: Don't Take Every Opinion to Heart!

If my brief Google research is correct, the quote “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one” is originally attributed to actor Clint Eastwood. I think (ok yeah, here’s my opinion) everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but having one (perhaps like having an a-hole) doesn’t mean you need to share it with the entire world.

My mom used to tell me when I was little that I wore my heart on my sleeve too often, and I brought a lot of that into young adulthood with me. I could be hurt very easily by the words and actions of others. In the world we live in today, where people feel empowered to state an opinion, often in unkind terms, and often about situations where they don’t have all the facts or choose to ignore them altogether, it’s easy for a “heart on the sleeve” person to be really damaged by taking too much stock in what other people—often strangers—think and say.

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I’m glad I’ve toughened up. Not so much that I won’t or don’t seek the opinions of someone I respect or trust; but for the most part, I can block out a lot of opinions that aren’t offered for the purpose of helping me succeed or grow. Maybe age has had something to do with it. Still, it’s not always easy to ignore, especially if the opinions come in loud or unkind ways. But if you can pull back and recognize those opinions more as a reflection on the person issuing them than about you, you just might find, like I have, that they hurt a whole lot less. Carry on, friends. And don’t be an a-hole, okay?

Keys to a Better Life: Get Some Exercise!

The editor of a local magazine reached out to me recently, to ask if I would share in an upcoming issue how I find balance in my life or stay centered. It was pretty easy for me to identify the major components of what I think keeps me from going entirely off the rails, but in the weeks since that article was submitted, I’ve really been thinking more about the nitty gritty of what’s important to me in the effort to live a better life. Have I achieved success in all these areas? Hell, no! I’m just a regular person with the same struggles as everyone else. But I think if you don’t strive for “better”, then you’re destined to be worse off in some way. So, I’m calling this the first of how many ever I can think of blog posts about what I’m striving for. If you can identify with any or all of these as the weeks go on, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m starting with exercise, because movement is at the root of what makes me feel better in general. Even on the days when I really don’t wanna. In fact, especially on those days. Do you need to join a gym? No. Do you need to run races? No. Do you need any special equipment? Again, no. All you need to do is start. Somewhere. From wherever you are. Just move.

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If exercise is new to you, start slow. Don’t have access to weights? Grab a couple cans of beans off your pantry shelf for tricep extensions, lateral raises, bicep curls, or raise them overhead. Use your washer, dryer, or kitchen countertop for balance and do some modified pushups, lunges, squats or leg raises out to the side. Park a little further from the store. Take the steps. You get the idea.

Or maybe you’re already exercising, but you’ve fallen into a rut where the same old thing just seems old. I have to keep changing things up to stay consistent. Personally I’ve done that with a fitness app that I really enjoy, and I like it because it encompasses a variety of activities with different coaches. I use it on my own for outdoor running/walking/yoga and when I go to the gym for strength training, treadmill or elliptical. What I know is that I have to move every day. Have to—for mental health as well as physical. It might be yoga, a meditative walk by myself or a walk with the dogs; or it might be an all-out sweat fest with a rowing session and a cycle class, or a run. But I’m moving purposefully every day for at least 30 minutes.

One day maybe I’ll share more of the “why” behind my commitment to moving every day. No need for me to try and get into the physical and mental benefits of exercise—I’m no doctor, and your doctor has probably told you why it’s important. I just want to tell you that it makes my life better every day, in so many ways.

So what are your exercise habits? Victories? Or hurdles? Maybe I can learn new tips from you, maybe you can learn from some of my struggles. I’d love to hear from you! Let’s keep moving together!

Let's Talk About Our Armpits!

Probably one of the biggest adjustments for me, in trying to live with fewer toxins, is something very personal—what I apply to my armpits every day. Natural cleaning and laundry products? No big deal. Beeswax paper to cut down on plastic dependency? A little training time, but again—doable. The quest for an effective, natural deodorant has proven to be a more elusive issue. As of this writing, I still haven’t settled on “the one”, so I’ll be glad to hear from anyone who has a great recommendation that I might not have already tried. Why is this so hard? 

Basically, when you decide to use a natural deodorant instead of a big-brand antiperspirant, you’re undergoing a form of detox.  Your body has grown accustomed to artificial results (reduced wetness and smell) produced by using artificial ingredients. But using potential toxins day after day in one of the most sensitive areas of our bodies can potentially lead to some pretty scary health problems. Removing those ingredients, on the other hand, might lead to some other side effects that we find a little undesirable. Truth is, though, with a little time and patience those side effects will subside. What can you expect to happen? 

Sweat

When you switch to a natural deodorant, you might find that you initially perspire more than usual. Why? Because the chemicals in conventional products might have your system out of balance. I know, it doesn’t help that culturally we (especially women) are encouraged to cover up normal biological processes, but contrary to that, we are absolutely supposed to sweat. Once your system’s balance is restored, you might actually find yourself less sweaty than before.

Smell

What if I stink? Well, just like the chemicals in conventional antiperspirants mask our sweat, they also mask the smell. If you have gotten used to the scent of artificial, synthetic fragrances, then you might feel a little stinky during the transition. I am definitely not down with being super stinky, but I can attest that this resolved pretty quickly for me. No matter what, you should always avoid deodorants that have “fragrance” on the label – this is usually a code word for lots of chemicals. 

Irritation

I have not experienced irritation from any of the natural deodorants I have tried, but I know it can happen. Many natural deodorants contain baking soda, which can cause underarms to become red, itchy, and bumpy, kind of like a razor burn. Irritation could also happen if you are using too much of a product or applying it right after shaving while your skin is most sensitive. 

If you’re considering making the switch from conventional drugstore antiperspirant to natural deodorant, I say go for it, because I truly believe it’s healthier for you. If you haven’t because you’re afraid you’re going to be a hot stinky mess, I promise in reality the detox isn’t that bad and only lasts for a week or two at most. I’m including here a list of ingredients you should look for on whatever product you’re using or considering, and I urge you to think carefully about your choices as they could seriously affect your health.

Let me hear from you if you have a product recommendation. And here’s to your happy, healthy, non-stinky armpits! 

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Five Things I'm Loving Now--May 2019

Jeez, I just about missed May altogether, didn’t I? My month started out pretty rough, with an upper respiratory infection that kept me away from work for the better part of a week. I have to admit, I wasn’t loving too much for the first 10-12 days of May. But, I’m firmly back on track now and decided that this month would be mostly about love of things local to the Happy Valley area, a couple of which are new or new to me, and a few that, should you try them, might bring a little extra enjoyment to your summer in Centre County.

First up, the array of choices we have in Farmer’s Markets! We personally subscribe to a farm share, but we are so grateful to be able to take advantage of the many additional products that are available to us by visiting the local Farmer’s Markets. Most if not all of our local markets are producer-only markets, so you are dealing with the actual people who planted, grew, harvested or made the products you buy. I hope I haven’t missed any in this listing, but here’s what you have to choose from in the local area: Tuesdays - Downtown State College (Locust Lane) 11:30-5:30 and Boalsburg (Miltary Museum grounds) 2:00-6:00; Thursdays - Pine Grove Mills (St. Paul Lutheran Church) 3:00-7:00; Fridays - Downtown State College (Locust Lane) 11:30-5:30; and Saturdays - Bellefonte (Gamble Mill Parking Lot) 8:00-noon; Millheim (American Legion Pavilion) 10:00-1:00, North Atherton (Home Depot parking lot) 10:00-2:00. You may go to the market just looking for produce, but I’m betting you’ll come away with a lot more—maybe having had a friendly conversation or two, a sense of community, and the good feeling of supporting the hard work of a local farm family.

Next a little love for a store I’d heard about but never visited until recently. Helen Foxx and Co. is a sweet little boutique on Allegheny Street in Bellefonte. Owner Joyce Mills will tell you—and I believe she sincerely means it—that her goal is to make every woman feel beautiful. I loved her warmth and sincerity, her recommendations for things to try on, and her honest feedback about what looked great, and what was on the “hmmm, maybe not” list. With hand-selected fashions that are stylish but not over the top trendy and the best customer service I’ve experienced in a long time, I highly recommend that my lady friends (or your loved one who may be shopping for you), pay a visit to Helen Foxx and Co. I came away from my first visit with a special occasion outfit, and on a return trip, a couple of really fun pieces that will add a much-needed lift to my summer work wardrobe. They also have a nice selection of gently used clothing, including shoes and accessories, and they cater to a good range of sizes and tastes—so check them out!

Third, I have to talk about the Barn at Lemont that’s not too far from where I live. This barn has been through several iterations of retail—all of which we have tried to support to the best of our needs/abilities, but we are hoping that the current situation sticks around for awhile. Upstairs, you’ll find Maine Bay & Berry Co. purveyors of fresh fish, seafood, and gourmet specialty products, as well as the Countryside Butcher, operated by Victor and Gina Woskob, with delicious, locally-raised beef. Maine Bay & Berry also offers its delicious soups on the premises pretty much throughout their open hours, and they’ve recently started serving prepared items (crab cake, lobster roll, salmon filet burger) during limited hours. What an enjoyable Saturday afternoon we had last weekend, noshing on their great food while sipping an IPA from the downstairs tenant, Voodoo Brewery, overlooking Slab Cabin Run and the bike path. We’re happy to have these fine folks in our neighborhood!

Bringing me to numbers four and five — you know, if I’m going to have nice new clothes and eat delicious food and enjoy tasty beverages, I’ve got to keep moving. It’s all about balance, right? So, there are two things I want to mention this month that I love for my active life.

The Lotta Breeze Capri is crazy-functional in almost any season, for any reason! If you shop Skirtsports, use code SSA489Joy as the coupon code at checkout for a 15 percent discount on regularly-priced merchandise!

The Lotta Breeze Capri is crazy-functional in almost any season, for any reason! If you shop Skirtsports, use code SSA489Joy as the coupon code at checkout for a 15 percent discount on regularly-priced merchandise!

Number 4 on my list this month is the Lotta Breeze Capri from Skirtsports. With the probable exception of this week, May has been one of those months where the mornings have been cool, and being a morning runner/exerciser, this affects me. While I love so many of Skirtsports’ products, I’m going to say that the Lotta Breeze Capri (LBC) is a true favorite—especially the newest patterns. The reason I’ll distinguish between the newest patterns and the “older” models is that the current season has two additional features that I think have taken this product to a whole ‘notha level. 1) a continuous drawcord to prevent any slippage; and 2) “baller” pockets on the legs, giving you an opening at both the top and bottom of the let pocket area. On dog walks, I can tuck treats or poo bags into the bottom opening, keeping the top openings free for my phone, ID and/or car keys. These skirts have a meshy capri, topped with a cute skirt that’s just the right length. It keeps my butt covered and has just the right amount of sway to feel feminine. I love the LBC for both the gym and for runs on those cool mornings (which we may have seen the last of for awhile).

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Finally, on those morning runs, I have finally—after how many years—solved my headphone problem. Well, I guess technology advanced, and I took advantage of it. My biggest complaints about headphones worn for exercise—inside OR outside—have always been the inability to keep them in place once I start sweating (because I sweat a lot), and that they block out other sounds to the point that I didn’t always feel safe running outside, out of fear I wouldn’t hear traffic, other runners on the sidewalk, or even the pleasure of hearing the birds singing. Trekz Air from Aftershokz has solved both of these problems, with their wireless “bone conduction” headphone. My ear is clear, so I can still hear what’s going on around me, but I can hear my Aaptiv trainer or my music too! No slipping due to sweat, great sound, a 6-hour battery, and if I have to, I can even take a call. I squirmed just a little at the $149 price tag, but they do have a 2-year warranty, and honestly I feel like I’ve already gotten my money out of them because I wear them almost every single day, either for exercise, or listening to podcasts or audio books.

I hope you’ve had a great May and I will be back sometime in June with five more things that are making my Happy Valley Healthy life just a little bit sweeter. Bye!

Five Things I'm Loving Now--November 2018

I love “top five” lists—how about you? I peruse Pinterest, blogs and other sites all the time to learn about new products, pick up tips for a healthier household, and ideas to make life easier. I thought it might be fun to make my own top five list, and who knows, maybe there’s something here that will resonate with you. If so, I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Thieves Wipes from Young Living. I keep a box of these on my desk at work, and once a week at minimum, wipe down my phone, keyboard, and desk. There are several versions of the story about the origin of Thieves oil, but the most common version goes back to the 15th century and the Bubonic plague. The story is that a marauding pack of thieves went from house to house stealing from the recently departed, and they lived through their criminal spree because they wore masks that were treated with a mixture of herbs, spices and oils that prevented them from being afflicted with the plague. I don’t think there’s an actual plague in my office, but clean surfaces and the great smell—I’ll take it!

  2. The Babbel app. I’m having fun with this, trying to learn enough Italian to at least get me through an upcoming trip with a better handle on basic things like money, ordering food, and asking for and understanding directions. Oh I know, almost everyone in Italy speaks at least a little English, but why not try to meet halfway. I tried another language app previously, but I never found much use for the phrase “The horse drinks the water”. Babbel actually includes phrases I will use, like “Io vorrei un vino rosso”. I mean, let the horse have the water—I want red wine!

  3. My Pocketopia capris from Skirt Sports. Love, love, love these! Why? They have totally eliminated my need for a waist or arm belt when I run. A pocket on the outside of each leg, plus a zipper pouch on the back, a key pocket on the waistband, super-soft compressive fabric and the high waist make this one of my favorite bottoms. I have three pairs of them! Phone in the leg pocket, ID in the zip pouch, key on the waist and I am good to go! I have a growing wardrobe of Skirt Sports products, but the Pocketopia is definitely a fave. If you order from Skirt Sports, just tell them I sent you with the discount code 1232Joyc on your order.

  4. Body Lotion from Life’s Abundance. I’m a Life’s Abundance rep, so it’s probably no surprise that a Life’s Abundance product will make a top five list for me, anytime. I’m especially loving the body lotion right now, and eager to see its effect on my skin as we head into the winter season. This all-organic lotion is thick and creamy, without being greasy. Greasiness is probably my biggest complaint about lotions. This absorbs quickly, but leaves my skin feeling really soft.

  5. The Fresh 20 Meal Planning Service. If, like me, you enjoy cooking but occasionally run out of ideas for healthy, do-able meals, you may like this too. I don’t follow it to the letter—sometimes substitutions are necessary because hubby doesn’t like certain foods, or we have farm share veggies to use up—but it’s a great source of basic planning. Plus, if you don’t love what’s on the weekly plan, there are searchable archives (by season, by ingredient, etc.) so you can explore recipes. To me, this is way better than a delivered meal service because I control what goes into it—e.g. local ingredients, controlled salt—and it adds some new things to the repertoire, and it’s budget-friendly. If you think The Fresh 20 is for you, you can check it out here.

That’s my November list. We’ll see what’s floating my boat in December!