April Showers in Kingman, Arizona…

This is what we get for trying to avoid too much rain. This is the view from my window today.

April 10 Kingman Arizona

It’s not too bad actually, it’s just that it’s been raining for several days and we have about five more days to go before we get our Arizona sunshine back again.

As a quick catch-up for readers, we left Grover Beach, California early. Though it’s a pretty place in pictures and sounded like a good place to be, it isn’t. Cold, damp wind does not do this body any good. I got sick while we were there and felt awful pretty much the whole time we were there. As soon as we were a few hours away from the coast I began to feel better. Low humidity is awesome. I’ll take dry skin and hair over body aches any day of the week!

Though we’ve been in Kingman, Arizona for a bit, we have not checked out the area or done much but catch up on an overly long list of to-do items, and for me, rest and recuperate. I had a bit of a health crisis recently with my condition (Gastroparesis) and so I’m just focused on healing and resting. We will have time to explore later. In fact, I’m almost grateful for the rain, as it feels like my job is to just relax, read, and watch TV. The only real downside to rain is muddy paws (not mine, Frodo’s).

That’s pretty much it for our update! Time has a way of melting away when you’re not feeling well.

2015 Year in Review: 3,872 Miles Traveled & 53 Books Read!

If I had to describe 2015 in one word, I’d probably call it busy. If you grant me two words, I’d say life-changing. Can I have two words please?

We kicked off 2015 as new residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Not long after settling in we experienced the Asheville Snowmageddon 2015. It was fun… at first. Much better after we got a snow shovel. Though, I have to say the Fall of 2014 was a lot more fun – especially for Frodo.

Asheville 2015 Pisgah National Forest

We experienced the joy of living in a National Forest, definitely an experience I’ll never forget. This also included fighting a little bit with the creatures that lived near our house. There were the birds, and the spiders. And Dave protecting our house from critter invasion…

Dave on a Mission

I finally had a chance to photograph our bedtime routine with Frodo. Yes, we still brush his teeth every night. He loves it, and so do his teeth! You can tell from the photos he has a good time.

In May, we watched a life-changing documentary, and have been vegans ever since. It’s been almost 8 months now and I only wish we had made the change sooner.

Early in July we decided to take our life on the road, and began the process of downsizing our belongings. In a few short months we sold most of our stuff, our house, our car, and purchased a truck and a travel-trailer. It was a whirlwind of activities.

We hit the road October 17th, officially house-less, beginning our journey as nomads. After leaving Asheville, we traveled very quickly to South Dakota to get our driver’s licenses. On the way, we stopped through some pretty areas I look forward to re-visiting. Columbia, Missouri was gorgeous! 

Stephens Lake Park_The Lake

Rock Port, MO had a lot of character. I wouldn’t mind going back for a few days, especially during warmer months.

We were only in Amarillo, Texas for a short time, but long enough to see some interesting things. Like a donkey. And an emu.

And then, we got crazy with it. It was at this point we further downsized and sold our truck and travel trailer, and switched to a van. Once comfortably settled in our new van, the race was on to get somewhere warm. We headed to Arizona, yet at the same time, experienced a month without hot water. Go figure.

Now we are wrapping up 2015, living in a van, living a vegan life-style, and currently chilling out in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – while we recover from the whirlwind that this year has been. And it’s been a doozy. With only traveling the last portion of the year, we still managed to cover 3,872 miles. The speed was purely insane and I hope to never need to travel that far at that pace ever again! But, we managed to get our domicile squared away, improve our travel setup, get our van repaired, and… rest in the quiet of the southwest. I’d say the travel part of this year was smashing, though speedy. But, it was worth it. Every crazy minute of it.

2015 - 3872 Miles Traveled

There’s still one aspect from 2015 I haven’t had a chance to address yet, and that’s my reading life. I set out to read 52 books, and did it (read 53 books actually), and though some were good, and some were great, many were fantastic. I figured I would highlight my favorites from this year and tried to narrow down my selection to a Top 5. I couldn’t.

Out of the 53 books I read this year, here are my Top 8 Favorites:

2015 was a great year, and 2016 will be even better. I wish everyone a happy, healthy new year!

My Cancer Prevention Project

No Day Like TodayMany years ago now (at least it seems that way), I developed an allergy to corn. Because of how pervasive corn-derived ingredients are in the United States it took us somewhere between 6-9 months to learn what living corn-free REALLY means. It felt overwhelming and difficult. It felt crazy. It was in a word – exhausting. As a family, we had to overhaul everything we thought of as normal.

Since then, I’ve had health issues that also challenged “our version of normal” and forced us to take a look at our lifestyle yet again. What and how were we eating. What about exercise? And how was stress being handled?

So yes, more changes were made. But each time we did what we thought was necessary at the time, it felt overwhelming and exhausting, and we created a new version of normal.

The other day I fell down the rabbit hole of research again and discovered I had fallen into complacency. Though I read ingredients on everything I use, I have become accustomed to ingredient lists that include items that are “safe” for me because they are not corn-derived, but I stopped asking questions beyond corn. After investigating for corn-derivatives, I didn’t ask – what is this? What is it made from? How is it made? And most importantly, is this safe for my health?

I intend to live a long, happy, healthy life. But I am in charge of, and responsible for my own health, and it’s time to stop riding in the passenger seat and get back behind the wheel.

Personally, I feel there is a lot we can do to “prevent” cancer. I’m not talking about early detection screenings – I’m talking about true, actual, prevention. Eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle can really go a far way into providing good health. My diet is overhauled and re-evaluated on a constant basis (for a variety of reasons) and I’m happy to say I’m back into strength-training (that’s a topic for another day, I’m sure I’ll talk about that soon). Strength-training makes me happy and I’m very glad I have finally been able to get back into the groove after a very long break.

But my environment has room for improvement. My lack of knowledge about sunscreen made that glaringly obvious. I’m upset with myself for allowing myself to be ignorant for so long.

So… I’m on a quest to Reduce My Toxins. Essentially, I will be looking at a variety of personal care products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, lotions, household cleaners, etc, and drive down the source of every single ingredient and determine if I want to continue to use that product, or find a safer alternative. I’m not going to just let my eyes glaze over at word recognition in an ingredient list without knowing for sure, what that ingredient does, and what it’s possible effects are on my health.

Each single item will probably take me a week to research so this will be an ongoing project that could last as long as a year, but one I think worth doing. I’m ready to create a new version of normal.

Because I wanted an easy way to keep track of my research and thoughts, I’ll be blogging my findings on a specific blog I’ve setup for this purpose. Since I’ll be looking up common household items (for example, my most recent research project was Softsoap liquid hand soap), you’re welcome to follow along. I can’t promise it will be interesting, but it will be informative! Here is the site for this project: https://reducemytoxins.wordpress.com/

I will still be blogging here (on Drink More Decaf) about life in general, the new site is just a way to give my research a home. I could never find my notes in Google Docs! Anyway, if you choose to check out my “research” site, I hope you find it helpful!

Jan 2015 Sharon and Frodo

SPF – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

All SPF is good, right? Well, it depends. Are you concerned about the chemicals in your sunscreen product passing through to your breast milk? Would it concern you to know if they turn up in your blood, or urine? Are you attempting to prevent skin cancer? As a consumer, you need a little bit of information before you buy.

The chemicals that provide SPF in daily products such as lotions, and makeup are not created equal. The sunscreen chemicals do not all behave the same way – I didn’t realize this, did you?

Here are some basics… There are two types of sunscreen: Physical, and Chemical. Let me explain what that means.

Physical Sunscreen: These sunscreen elements protect your skin by reflecting and scattering the UV rays. These include Zinc Oxide, and Titanium Dioxide. These work by acting like a shield for your skin, and do not absorb into your body.

Chemical Sunscreen: These sunscreen elements work by absorbing the suns rays. They also absorb into your skin instead of sitting on your skin’s surface. Chemical sunscreens include; Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone. There are more that are approved by the FDA, though they are rarely used.

With the chemical sunscreens, believe it or not, many of them are not photostable. That means, they break down in sunlight. For example Avobenzone will lose most of it’s effectiveness within one hour of sunlight exposure, unless it’s paired with another chemical blocker (which, it usually is, that’s why you’ll see a handful of sunscreen blockers listed together on an ingredient list). However, this is where it gets extremely tricky, complicated, and concerning…

Eucerin Daily ProtectionLet’s look at a specific product example. Eucerin Daily Protection, SPF 30 Moisturizing Face Lotion (Link). The Active Ingredients provide the SPF, and here they are: Ensulizole 2.0%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 4.5%, Titanium Dioxide 2.38%, Zinc Oxide 4.85%

The first ingredient, Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid or PBSA), causes the formation of free radicals, and may cause cancer – and, can be detected in human breast milk and urine. You can read more about this here.

The second ingredient, Octinoxate has been shown to have hormone-mimicking effects when tested on laboratory animals (it’s an endocrine disruptor), and this too has been found in mother’s milk samples. You can read more about this here and here.

Moving on… we now see Octisalate. In order to research Octisalate accurately, it would be best to do research under ALL of it’s known names since scientific studies may reference it by one name and not another. This site lists it’s known synonyms.

The last two active ingredients in this Eucerin product are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which are physical blockers. Zinc Oxide as a physical blocker is  photostable so it’s properties are not altered when exposed to sunlight. Keep in mind, there are many sunscreen products that ONLY contain physical blockers without including chemical ones, and those may be better choices. And though I selected this one particular product to use as an example, these ingredients are found in hundreds of personal care products. Yes, even those “trustworthy” companies use them, such as Eucerin, Aveeno, and Neutrogena. However, as a consumer, you have choices.

One more thing. When it comes to Zinc Oxide other things to keep in mind are nano vs. non-nano. Confused yet? The term non-nano is not FDA regulated, so it is important to keep that in mind. Badger Balm does a great job of explaining the non-nano issue on their website here.

To wrap up, not all sunscreens are created equal. This post was created with family and friends in mind, and is not intended to be an all-inclusive thesis. I am just another person who wants to be an informed consumer and make the safest choices for my health and my family. You are encouraged to question what you read, where you read it, and research ingredients that you apply to your body as you see fit. If these things do not concern you, by all means, carry on! Unless you scuba dive. If you scuba dive, please be aware that the chemicals you place on your body are being shared with the fish! You can read more about that here and here.

Links for further reading:

If you read this entire post, thank you for taking the time! Be well 🙂

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out and DNA Altering Soda

Today I read…

In Books: The movie that many of us now know as THE Christmas movie: A Christmas Story (1983), was actually based on a bookIn God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd, was published in 1966! Did you know this? You can read more about this via Off the Shelf. In the meantime, yet another book was added to my TBR. I have come to accept I will never, ever, read all the books on my To Be Read list!

In Health: Everyone knows drinking soda is unhealthy. But did you know drinking soda daily makes you age faster? Soda drinkers have shorter telomeres than non-soda drinkers (this is related to our DNA). I gave up soda (kicking and screaming) about 6 years ago, I guess sometimes my corn allergy is looking out for me. Okay, not really, but I’m glad I don’t have to worry about this anymore.

And in General News, Marriott is evil. That is all.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Review)

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 is now available to watch on Netflix (yay for the New Year!) and Joe Cross is back! If you’ve already watched FSND 1 (also available on Netflix), it’s a great follow up and you get to see several folks who were in the first documentary and how things are going for them now, 5 years later (Phil Staples included).

There isn’t a lot to say about this one, other than it was a great reminder to “Juice” and why – but that isn’t something we’re likely to forget in our household.

Fat Sick and Nearly DeadFat, Sick & Nearly Dead had been recommended to me for years. YEARS. And I kept ignoring all the recommendations. I wish I had listened! We watched the movie in September, just prior to a big upcoming move – so although we were both inspired to try juicing, we knew it wasn’t the right time to try something so drastic.

We did it anyway.

In late September we went on a moderate juicing fast (I’m not really sure why the Reboot with Joe plan is called a Fast, you aren’t really fasting… but that is the term they use, so I’m using it here). Our fast was about 7-10 days and involved replacing 2 meals a day with fruit & vegetable juice (a modified version of Joe’s Mean Green, as well as other juice/veggie combinations) – and – we both benefited. It helped Dave a little, it helped me A LOT. Continue reading