For an introduction, let me start with a funny confession. About a week ago I had a calamity involving myself and a random patch of ice while I was walking to a local coffee shop with my daughter. I didn’t even see the ice, the ground around it was dry and there wasn’t even any snow to hide it.
I was just not paying attention to what was right in front of me.
One minute I was looking over at and commenting on my daughter’s super cute boots and the next thing I knew, BAM! I started flying through the air towards the ground, arms flailing every which way, legs doing the splits (honestly I didn’t even know I could still do that!). All the while Courtney was looking at me in shock and horror from a few feet away.
As I was making my long but also painfully slow and embarrassing descent towards the cold hard pavement, it was pretty clear that there was really no way to stop the flailing or the impending collision I was about to have.
I spent what was perhaps the longest 30 seconds of my life trying to think of all the things I could do to potentially break my fall and avoid the ice. But there was nothing I could grab to slow myself down. And when your hands and feet can’t find anything solid to grip, you’re going down and it isn’t going to be graceful.
Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head, lose consciousness, land on my back or break any bones. I could move all my extremities (even though I could tell my knees and hands were bruised and sprained), but I COULD NOT get up off that ice for a good three minutes. I laughed the entire time and was SO grateful no one but my daughter was there to witness it all. Haha.
Now, mind you, if that whole icy fall wasn’t traumatizing enough, it all took place just two days after my birthday. I’m feeling much better now, but definitely want to start paying closer attention to where my feet are going.
Getting older isn’t always fun, but falling face down on the ice is never a good way to celebrate your birthday. I am grateful, however, that I lived to tell the tale and will watch my feet more carefully from now on. :)
I actually started The Inspired Room ten years ago because I was approaching a milestone birthday. I was kind of down about the birthday for about a year prior until I realized something that gave me a change of perspective.
One of the blessings in getting older is you’ve had the opportunity to learn a thing or two. And even just a thing or two can change everything if you apply the lessons or share them. I reasoned with myself before I started the blog that if you are willing to put yourself out there and share, even those ridiculous moments where you were looking at boots and missed the ice to other more serious life-changing moments and the mundane stuff in between, something in your story might impact someone else.
And that is why I felt led to start a blog in the first place. I truly wanted to be of help. I know how much our environment matters to our health and well-being in obvious and not-as-obvious ways. Often we talk about ways to make our home look better to our eye, but mostly what really matters is how we feel in our home.
As much as I love decorating I really don’t care if your walls are painted in the “color of the year” or you are right “on trend” with your accessories, but I do care that your home is truly your safe sanctuary.
I’ve shared a lot of our life and home over the last ten years, both here and in my books. Even though life has been generally good, there are always lessons and hardships that we can learn and grow from. I always find lots of good things to be grateful for, and lots of lessons to be learned and perspective to be gained.
I had quite a few comments and emails in regards to my post about chemicals in the home and the impact they can have our health. I’m SO glad the discussion and information was helpful because it is a topic that my own family is deeply concerned about.
I actually didn’t originally intend to share some of the stories I’m about to share, but after talking to some of you I just feel led once again that things I have experienced or gone through might be a lightbulb moment, could maybe even change someone’s life or open someone’s eyes (and in more ways than just the wake up call to avoid slipping on ice!). So, here goes. It’s kind of a long story.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Don’t take anything I say as scientific or medical advice. I can’t and won’t even try to diagnose your ailments and never mean to imply that what worked for me can cure anyone of anything. This is just my story. If it helps even one person, it’s worth sharing.
Let me preface my next stories by saying I have great respect for the doctors and their wisdom that has literally helped save my life, both of my daughters lives, my husband’s life, my mom’s life and in general have helped others in our family in countless ways over the years.
But the lack of understanding on my part and from some in the medical community and beyond for what would truly make me or our family healthy at various times in our life has at times been confusing, frustrating and even utterly heartbreaking.
Even when I know better, I do not make perfectly healthy or even wise decisions all the time. :) But I’m learning. I believe you can’t live well by hanging onto regrets, so even if you think you could have done something differently in the past, we just need to offer ourselves and others grace and move forward to do the best we can with what we know in the present.
I have far too many stories to tell and this is far too big of a topic for us to discuss in a blog post (and not the place to get into too many details), but I’ll share a couple quick snippets from my history so you can better understand what has led to my interest in wellness and why I believe creating a healthy home matters so much.
Even more importantly, if any of these stories help you to consider your own situation or perhaps motivates you to research something further now or even down the road, it will have been worth it for me to share.
While I clearly love decorating and making a house a cozier place to be, there is nothing more important than our health and creating a healthy home for our families. Nothing.
In the year following the birth of my first daughter, I suffered an unexpected health crash after I started on a popular but unhealthy packaged food diet plan (I didn’t realize the connection to my health at the time). I was a young and healthy new mom, and then suddenly I wasn’t healthy at all. It started with weird mystery ailments regular doctors couldn’t diagnose. I had all sorts of tests and was given all sorts of prescriptions that didn’t help.
Fortunately, I didn’t stop searching for answers. I found a naturopathic doctor who didn’t just treat or dismiss my symptoms. He helped me to understand potential cause (chemicals in food and environment) and reasons for my random symptoms (and found chemical toxins and imbalances in my body through bloodwork and hair!) as well the lifelong results (my thyroid was failing among other systems that needed support through detoxing the chemicals and increased nutrition).
He gave me some little drops to put under my tongue and the nutritional support and advice I needed to start to get well and to compensate for my failing thyroid. Some of the things he gave me were literally an overnight fix for my crazy brain fog symptoms and some things would take time to help my body to get back to a state of health.
I eventually stopped going to the naturopathic clinic because my health insurance didn’t cover visits and I thought we couldn’t afford health care out of pocket. I felt so much better after his treatments that I didn’t even think I needed to continue.
Unfortunately, when I stopped going to the clinic I also stopped the things the doctor had prescribed for my health and thyroid. I do regret that because stopping those treatments cost me far more than the price of an office visit.
My hypothyroidism hadn’t yet shown up through any test in any medical lab, so there was actually no other doctor who would treat me for it. While I do wish I had continued to be treated for my thyroid, I am so glad that I took with me a much greater awareness that our bodies simply don’t function well with synthetic chemicals and other toxins that are in our home.
I am glad I was enlightened to the fact that there were substances in our food, environment and home that could do more harm than good. Those lessons have stuck with me and I’ve passed them onto my children as they’ve grown up, too.
I was so impacted that I started telling everyone I knew about the risks of chemicals in the home, of drinking diet sodas, of eating diet foods and from any products that had words you couldn’t pronounce.
People often looked at me funny, but kept right on drinking the chemicals. At least I could sleep at night knowing I tried to help! I totally understand why it’s hard to change. I’m still learning and still making changes all the time.
Over time, my own failing thyroid started to cause more than just weird symptoms, hair loss, weight issues, depression, anxiety or fatigue. The thyroid regulates everything in your body so when it’s not functioning properly, nothing is. Symptoms you don’t even thonk are related can be connected to your thyroid failure. And studies on thyroid issues show they be traced to things in your environment that disrupt your system from functioning as it should.
Again, I’m not a doctor and none of this is medical advice for anyone else. This is just my story.
Heartbreakingly, years later, the year before we had our now 16 year old son, we experienced a miscarriage at 13 weeks, just after seeing a heartbeat on ultrasound and telling our families the happy news of a new baby just week before. The loss was unexpected and devastating to us and the hardest thing we’ve ever been through.
Doctors were puzzled as we had two healthy girls and no prior history of any issues. My doctor asked me a lot of questions. When I mentioned the potential thyroid issues that had never even shown up on blood work, he said let’s test again. Lo and behold, my thyroid finally was bad enough that it was out of range in a lab.
I was able to be officially treated for hypothyroidism by an endocrinologist. She taught me even more about my thyroid and what to watch for in future blood tests and symptoms. We went on to have another healthy baby, our son Luke. I was grateful to finally have a lab diagnosis and eventually another healthy baby, but so very sad at the journey and loss to get there.
After that hard experience, I was even more cautious about what we brought into our environment and to watch for symptoms that might indicate something was amiss. I also learned I had to be my own health advocate and if something didn’t seem right, I needed to speak up or find someone who would understand.
The need to be aware was put to the test again when our son was a little over a year old. HE started exhibiting some sudden emotional and physical symptoms that really alarmed me. He went from a happy baby to a sad temper tantrum baby and had some noticeable digestive upsets. It broke my heart to see him suffering.
Even though we thought we were feeding him well, I spoke to his wonderful doctor about a potential connection to food just in case. I was met with the same puzzled look I had seen in the eyes of past doctors when I mentioned weird symptoms.
I knew I was going to have to be my son’s wellness advocate and began my detective work. I started very diligently reading books, studying labels and eliminating anything from his diet that seemed to stir up symptoms. Even if it was something I thought was “natural” like cow’s milk or a healthy whole grain bread! As I altered his diet, I saw night and day results.
We stopped all cow’s milk and any form of it (like casein, which can be found in a list of ingredients even in foods labeled as healthy such as whole wheat bread). When he started preschool, I banned him from receiving any sugary fruit snacks, cheddar fish crackers or anything that contained milk, soy, preservatives or artificial coloring. It wasn’t easy!
He was a different kid when those things were kept from his diet. He was happy and his body functioned properly. We always tried to serve what we considered healthy food to our family, but never had it been more obvious to me that even things that seemed “natural” like milk could create so many negative emotional and physical symptoms. I vowed that I would never forget those symptoms and what caused them. I still am just as diligent with reading labels and reminding him to watch his diet as a teenager (it’s not easy, but worth it).
Interestingly, a few years later on the way home from a blogging event I happened to sit in the back of a plane next to a medical researcher who was on his way home from another country. I normally sit on a plane with headphones in hopes that no one will talk to me (introvert) but this guy just started talking. :)
He was so passionate about what he wanted to tell me that I took the headphones off and started really listening. He told me that he had been studying the effect of chemicals in food sources and the environment! I shared my own stories and he literally made me promise to continue to watch what I fed my family (to be mindful where our food came from, that good farmers and safe farming practices matter) and to be aware of the devastating impact even hidden chemicals in products in the home and food would eventually have on health. He even showed me his videos of people who suffered severe results of these environmental toxins. It was truly heartbreaking and eye-opening.
He wasn’t an alarmist, I could tell he was just sincerely wanting to help even just one person with the knowledge he had discovered. That one person sitting next to him that day was me. I’m so glad he was willing to warn me about what he had seen because it really resonated with my experience, solidified my concerns and opened my mind to what was to come if we weren’t more diligent. I think of him every time a new health study supports just what he told me would eventually happen so many years later.
Even though (gratefully) overall I’ve been pretty healthy most of my life, many experiences over the years continued to reinforce the importance of working towards a more chemical-free environment. In addition to what I’ve already shared, I had two seasons as a young mom where I experienced debilitating panic attacks, a life-threatening emergency surgery soon after we moved to Washington followed by a second thyroid-related crash just a few years ago due to a synthetic drug (which sent me right back to my naturopathic doctor to help solve, no more messing around!), and even health issues in family members that have helped to shaped my perspective on even more things we can do to have a healthier home.
I’m doing better, but still have so much work to do to be healthier. I’m still learning and finding out new things to watch out for in our home. I am still reading about and discovering connections between past symptoms, health and the environment.
Health isn’t a guarantee in this life. There are so many factors outside of our control and circumstances that go into what makes us and our environment and home healthy or unhealthy. We can’t live in regret for past choices or fear of the future. We certainly can’t control everything and don’t need to be paranoid.
But I believe that even though we can’t necessarily control everything about our health or environment, we can research more and take small but important steps TODAY to better support the health of our home and the people in it.
Like I said about my calamity on the ice last week, we often just need to pay closer attention to what is right in front of us. What are we bringing into our home?
Small improvements and changes in our home really DO make a difference.
EDITED TO ADD: WOW! THANK YOU so much for your kind emails and messages on social media in responses to this post. I’m touched beyond words to have found such kindred spirits and am honored to pray for your situations! I am happy to help you with ways you can support your health. Visit my Pure & Lovely Instagram account as well as find information on how to get the essential oils and supplements I use here.
I’m SO grateful for your support through the years here on the blog and the encouragement to finally share more of my story. I know many of you probably have similar stories. If so, please message me or follow me on my Pure & Lovely Instagram so we can connect. You’ll find a five day mini-series over on my new Instagram account (@pureandlovelyliving) and Facebook page to help inspire simple daily steps and tips for creating a happier, healthier home.
Thanks for reading my story and sharing it with anyone who might benefit.
Here’s to a happier, healthier home in 2017!