Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you very much.

Feeling the spirit of love and friendship all around at the Mystical Yoga Farm, I decided to indulge this Valentine’s Day. As I was growing up I enjoyed having a special someone be my Valentine. This year I’ve decided that that special someone is me.

Leela, a lovely Karma Yogi who inspires me every day, led a poetry and yoga workshop last week. It was my day off so I missed the workshop, but Leela gave me the prompt: write an ecstatic love poem to yourself. Be as mushy and loving as possible. Read Leela’s gorgeous love poem at her blog Zen BootCamp.

Love and acceptance are broader themes to personal subjects I’m working on constantly. Loving myself is an important part of that process. Happy Valentine’s Day to the people I love very much, including myself. Please share your self-love poems in the comments section. Click to read my poem and be swept away in self-love

LASIK Eye Surgery Review

It’s been one week and a couple days since I got LASIK eye surgery. So far it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Here’s a video review of the procedure and the recovery process:

In the video I forget to mention a few things. After the eye is forced open by those hooks, the doctor puts a suction ring over the cornea to help stabilize the eye. That pressure is what caused all my broken blood vessels. While the laser was operating there’s this clicking noise that also freaked me out.

Update 12/17/12: I spent all day yesterday watching movies and my eyes were extremely dry. They still are today. I still don’t think my eyes are ready for too much screen time yet.  As far as medicines go, I’m taking the Pred Forte, Refresh and Restasis. No more Ofloxacin.

If you’re brave and up for it, check out the video of my LASIK procedure:


Here are the eye drops I mentioned in the video:

-Pred Forte, the anti-inflammatory

-Ofloxacin, the antibiotic

Restasis, to combat dry eye

Refresh Optive Advanced, for lubrication

After I use the drops I get a metallicy taste in the back of my throat.

Pre-surgery:

I went to the doctor for a free consultation to see if I was even a candidate for LASIK. I stopped wearing my contacts 3 weeks before the surgery. During that time I had to use Restasis every morning and night.

Post-surgery:

No exercising for the first week or so; no hot tubs or swimming and no make-up. I had an eye appointment with my regular eye doctor one day after and one week after. I just scheduled my one month post surgery appointment.

Surgery Details:

I got my surgery at Clarity Refractive Services in West Orange, NJ. Dr. Fox was my surgeon. I would recommend him to anyone. The surgery was $4,850, which covers all the pre- and post-doctor’s visits and insures you for life. Some insurance plans offer a special plan, which reduces the total cost.

If you have any questions about the surgery feel free to ask me!

How To Heal A Second-Degree Burn

The first part of the blog is the story of how my skin got burned. The second part, “The Healing Process” is where you can find information about healing burns.

Warning: This blog post contains graphic photos of burnt skin.

Update from October 26, 2013: This blog now includes the most recent photo of the burn. It’s a picture from one year and three months later. 

This past summer I got a second-degree burn on my thigh while I was at my favorite music festival. It was horrifying and upsetting as it happened, but I was more concerned with making sure I saw my favorite acts play and being able to dance all night. I was also pretty upset about my maté.

The burn all started with my desire for an early evening pick-me-up. Eager to make some maté (a South American tea known for its energizing properties), I approached boys at a neighboring campsite to boil water. Once I got back to my camp, between juggling my maté gourd, my thermos with an unscrewed on cap and other items that have no significance now, the water in my thermos spilled down my leg. Luckily I was wearing pants. I just changed into silk pants from a sarong. I sprung up, pulled my pants off and saw my skin start to sizzle. At first I was in shock. Then I broke down, crying, “All I wanted was maté.”

At first the burn did not hurt. It stung, but it was not overwhelming painful or unbearable. This continued to be the case throughout the duration of the burn’s life.

My superhero friends leapt into action. One grabbed my hand for support (even though I ended up being the one telling him it would be okay), one poured cool water on the burn and another ran for first aid. Well two ended up running in different directions for first aid. Luckily a woman who happened to be a nurse was camping close by, and she came to my rescue.

Once I found out what time it was (7:45 and my main squeeze, Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited were scheduled for 8) I really started to cry. For months I’d been looking forward to dancing to their show. The camping nurse wrapped gauze around my leg and told me I couldn’t dance for the rest of the festival. Now this only made me cry harder. The burn was the least of my worries.  As soon as she walked away I said, “I’m dancing no matter what.” Hopping on one leg while clutching my thigh, I made it all the way to the main stage.

Once again, I was in luck. The band was running late. As they sound-checked I wobbled to the official first aid tent of the festival. The first-aiders wrapped a new bandage around the burn, and I danced like a wild animal throughout Thomas Mapfumo’s set. I didn’t stop there. I ended up dancing throughout the night, all the way until the sun came up the next day.

I was extremely mindful of my burn throughout the night (and early morning). I can’t even count how many times I went to the first aid tent: between every other song, if not after every song, after every set, etc., etc.

Back at first aid after Thomas’ set, the burn looked much worse than it had originally. The first-aiders determined it was at least a second-degree burn, if not third. They kept calling people over to look at the burn like they had never seen anything like it. More raw skin appeared, more burnt spots surfaced. What started as one spot that looked burnt, now turned into two spots the size of silver dollars with a huge blister underneath. The blister liquid moved up and down. The area of burnt skin just kept growing, revealing itself with each unraveling.

The first-aiders reassured me that even though the burn looked worse as the night went on, it was getting better. It was going to look worse as it got better. Each time we unwrapped the burn I could have sworn it made faces at me. You’ll see in the pictures. The only time the burn didn’t bother me or I forgot it existed was when I danced. So I didn’t stop dancing.

The next day before I left I got the burn re-wrapped again. The first-aiders said they were shocked at how good it looked and that it was already healing very well. It must have been all that dancing and the magic of GrassRoots. I can’t express enough gratitude for the first-aiders, my friends and everyone who helped. Who knows what would have happened if they weren’t there.

The Healing Process

Here's the view of my burn two days after.

Here’s the view of my burn two days after.

Close-up 2 days later

Close-up (Doesn’t it resemble an alien head?)

Once home I researched everything I could about burns. I wanted answers about what to do; I wanted burn advice, remedies. I was disappointed with what I found. I couldn’t find enough detailed or in-depth advice. That’s when I decided I’d track my progress and blog about it. Even though I’ve only gotten one second-degree burn in my life and I’m no expert by any means, I thought this post may be useful to people and could offer some more advice about healing burns. Remember: everyone heals differently. What worked for me may not work for you.

For starters: I found it was best to let my body do what it was doing naturally without me interfering too much. So I didn’t pop the blisters no matter how much the liquid moved. I didn’t pull off the charred skin. I took cold showers for the first week or so because I didn’t want to risk the burn getting any more heat. I kept the burn covered at all times. When I changed the covering (morning and night and random times throughout the day) I let the burn air out for 20 minutes or so. But I did this in the safety of my bedroom without too much movement.

After getting a burn, the most important thing is to make sure it does not get infected. So I applied Bacitraycin Plus with Aloe to the affected area. Bacitracin (one of the key ingredients of Neosporin) is an antibiotic that stops the growth of certain bacteria. Aloe is soothing and known to have healing properties.

Bacitraycin

I asked everyone I knew if they knew the best way to heal burns. Vitamin E came up in most conversations as the number one remedy. So I bought Vitamin E pills and took them orally everyday starting two weeks after the burn. I also opened the capsules and poured the Vitamin E oil on my wound. As an antioxidant, Vitamin E neutralizes the effect of free radicals. When skin is damaged your body can produce free radicals, which damage skin. Free radicals are thieves in the night, stealing electrons from healthy skin cells. Vitamin E is the detective that cleans everything up.

Every time I showed someone the burn they told me to go to the doctor immediately. I wanted to see how long I could experiment with healing myself using natural remedies before the doctor got involved. I knew I was taking care of the burn well enough that it was not infected. I figured the doctor wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t know.

But going to the doctor ended up being a good thing for three reasons:

-They gave me a tetanus shot just to be safe.

-The doctor told me to put lavender oil on the burn.

-They wrote me a prescription for Silvadene Cream, which contains the antimicrobial agent silver sulfadiazine. This is the cream nurses use on burn patients in hospitals. The only way to get it is through a prescription. Silvadene started instantly helping the burn. My prescription didn’t have any refills so I was only able to use the Silvadene cream until it ran out. But I highly recommend this cream if you have a second- or third-degree burn.

My routine for over a month:

Witch Hazel

1. Clean the burn with cool water and sometimes Witch Hazel, which is an astringent, a natural skin tightener. Witch Hazel also contains soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. It didn’t sting, but it was a little tingly.

2. With a towel pat dry as carefully as possible.

3. Use a Q-tip to apply Bacitraycin with Aloe or Silvadene to the affected area. Once the blister was completely drained and the skin wasn’t as raw, I started using the Vitamin E oil on the burn instead of Bacitracin. I also I added a few drops of lavender oil and rubbed the mixture together. Lavender oil can also act as an astringent. Not to mention that the scent alone is very soothing and relaxing. Pads, tape, gauze

4. Cover the burn with one large or two small sterile pads. Wrap the pads with gauze and tape to skin. I tried latex free gauze and gauze that stuck to itself. I liked the gauze that stuck to itself but if I moved a lot, I had to also tape it.

I repeated this process around lunchtime and before bed. During this time I never wore tight-fitting pants or jeans. I wore dresses and long flowing skirts. Tight fabric would irritate the burn. I did not go swimming or exercise (yoga, hiking included) for the rest of the summer.

An Overview of Burn Remedies:

-Silvadene Cream

-Vitamin E: either pills taken orally or oil applied directly to the skin.

-Lavender Oil

-Grapeseed Oil (usually mixed with lavender oil and sometimes coconut oil)

-Bacitraycin with aloe

-The gel from an actual Aloe plant

-Witch Hazel

Materials needed:

-Adhesive Tape: I tried a variety of tapes. ShopRite Brand (ShopRite’s a supermarket) Adhesive Latex-Free Waterproof white tape stung the areas that were taped. It stayed really tight if I was still, but once I moved the tape came undone. Wouldn’t recommend it. Cloth tape stuck to the gauze and ripped the gauze. It didn’t stick that well to my skin either. NexTape moved with my skin and was very stretchy.

-Sterile Pads

-Gauze or a cloth covering

-Q-tips

Something to think about: It got pretty pricey keeping up with all the sterile pads and gauze I needed.

Post-burn, 4 and a half months later:

Four and a half months later

Four and a half months later

The burn has shrunk in size and blends into my skin like sun spots would. You can barely notice it. Most of the burn is a light pink, while the bottom part is slightly redder.

I’m not as diligent as I was in the beginning, but I still apply cream on my burn. I apply whatever is in reach in my bathroom: grapeseed oil, lavender oil, lotion packed with vitamins, scar gel. My leg hasn’t been exposed to the sun yet, but for the rest of my life I’ll make sure the burn has sunscreen on it and is covered.

Post-burn one year and three months later:

Burn year later

Here’s the burn one year and three months later.

For the most part the burn has blended into my skin. The outline of the burn is a slightly different color tone than my skin. Some of the insides are a paler white; some of the insides have merged with my skin tone.

When I get out of the shower I apply Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula with Vitamin E and mix in Lavender Oil. I try to do this whenever possible, but sometimes I miss days. I’m very happy with the way my burn has healed. To me it looks like a birthmark.

Here’s an overview of the burn’s progress.

Please feel free to share your burn stories and burn remedies in the comments section. Have you ever tried any of the remedies I’ve mentioned? What were the results?

GrassRoots: 2009

During my second semester of my junior year (around February 2010) I submitted a non-fiction essay about GrassRoots to The Blue Guitar Magazine. The issue’s just been published online. Check out my essay and the other wonderful writing here. My essay’s on pages 50-51.

My essay’s about my GrassRoots experience in 2009. I just got out of a serious relationship, and I was in a really broken place. Going to GrassRoots and being surrounded by so much love helped heal me in so many ways.

In case you don’t venture over to the website, here’s the essay:

Healed by the Beat of the Drum

“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.

This is power, it is glory on Earth and it is yours for the taking.”

— Agnes De Mille

Waking up in the same pajamas I’ve been wearing the past five days, I have no desire to leave my bed even as the afternoon sun beats down outside my window. My whole world had come to a crashing halt when my boyfriend confessed he’d fallen out of love with me. Even my bedroom in the house I grew up in — surrounded by pictures of friends, bands and art — couldn’t offer any comfort.

I needed to escape the prison of loneliness, so I fled to my favorite music festival: GrassRoots. Held in upstate New York, GrassRoots is a four-day spectacle of partying, camping and listening to bands from all over the world. The eclectic mix of music ranges from Native American folk and Peruvian electronica to rock, bluegrass, soul, reggae and rockabilly. Because the camping is in tight quarters, festival-goers share food, alcohol, blankets and all other belongings. By the end of the festival, neighbors become family, and strangers become lifetime friends.

Noises in the night

Lying in my tent, I can’t fall asleep, even after an exhausting day of dancing and drinking at the festival. Shrieks, screams, howls, drumbeats and laughter erupt from the woods. The noises call to the wind, to the world, to the wild. A rush of electricity buzzes in my brain. One more “I yi yiiiii!” stabs into my ears, and I leap up. I need to join the people creating the noise.

It’s the first night of the festival, and everyone’s welcoming the darkness with music. As I walk barefoot into the woods, a couple greet me: “Hi friend! Happy GrassRoots!” They share the shine of their flashlight as we drift from campsite to campsite.

People I’ve never met smile and hug me when I walk by. They’re eager to share their belongings. “Hey friend, great to see you! Have a glow stick.” “Hi beautiful, would you like any food?” Their kindness is overwhelming.

As we approach the drum circle, I understand why everyone is still awake. A painted naked woman holds a tambourine with one hand and claps her fingers to her mouth with the other. Her knotty hair sways as she sits cross-legged on the dirt. Next to her, a man attacks the bongo drum with his fingers.

Glancing at the crowd, I realize these people are no different than me. They too have work on Monday. The guy dancing naked hollering in the drum circle will be in a suit waiting for the Metro on Monday morning.  They too have jobs in cubicles, work the monotonous 9-5, cook meals and wash laundry. They too could be suffering broken hearts.

But at this instant, none of that matters. For these stolen moments they have a chance to really just be.

The power of music

In the morning the sun pierces my tent. Crawling out, I stretch and change into my rainbow-hued bathing suit top and wrap a blue sarong with bright sunflowers around my waist. I place my favorite hat from when I was 7 on my head: a pink-and-red beaded veil with long white lace that falls down my back. I head to the festival to prepare for the Happiness Day Parade.

At the festival grounds I look for Ryan, the artist who’d painted my body the year before. He’s in the same spot, next to a maple tree outside the Happiness Day Parade headquarters, a barn filled with medieval costumes and capes for anyone to borrow.

Smiling as he sees me, Ryan says, “Come here, you goddess! Let me paint you.”

With a brush, Ryan splashes lines of blue and green across my shoulders and down my arms. He presses a small dish drainer around my forehead and airbrushes pink against the holes. In the middle of my forehead he sticks a silver-colored gem. With an assortment of other kitchen instruments and metal scraps he airbrushes the rest of my upper body and draws a lime green heart under my collar bones.

“Now that you look beautiful, you better get out there and dance like crazy,” Ryan says.

“Oh, I will,” I reply. Thinking, you have no idea.

After the parade I meet up with friends from home, and we’re instantly pulled to the sound of loud bongo drumming. We run right up to the main stage and see four African-American men shining in long, bright blue dresses. It’s the band Samite of Uganda. The frontman Samite wails tribal African songs as the percussion section bloomswith conga drums, bongos and native African madinas and kalimbas.

My body starts to move in ways I can’t even comprehend. My arms propel up and down, left and right. I bend close to the ground, spin on my toes and plunge into the air, all the while swinging and stomping to the beat of the drum. Sweat slides across my face, in between my knees. Paint drips down my forehead. My heart thumps louder and wilder with every beat. The music rattles my senses.

People around us join our circle. We just look at each other—laughing, smiling, twirling into a perpetual state of bliss. The 6-foot-tall man in front of me dances in his huge black top hat and long, sparkly wizard cape. The girl next to him, feathers and flowers in her hair, spins in her bright purple, orange, yellow and blue dress.

On the stage I see Ryan dancing and laughing with his friends. Our eyes meet. He jumps off the stage, shimmies over to me, eyes fiery with excitement, and shouts, “You’re doing it! You’re doing it! You’re getting crazy!” He grabs my hand and pulls me on stage.

As we dance next to the band, euphoria rushes through me. My body no longer belongs to me—some other force takes over.

Nothing matters except that moment. I am infinite.

My wizard friend dances on the other side of the stage. He pulls off his hat, shakes his head and dreadlocks tumble out down to his knees. The crowd roars.

As the music stops, I can’t even breathe. Floating in a trance, I walk off stage and bump into the wizard.

“I saw you dancing up there, getting down!” he says.

“Yeah, I saw you shaking out all your dreads.”

He looks at me, snaps his fingers side to side and starts singing, “Life just keeps getting better. Life just keeps getting better.”

A smile sprouts in my heart and conquers my whole face. All the loneliness from the break-up with my boyfriend disintegrates. Laughing wildly, I join in: “Life just keeps getter better. Life just keeps getting better.”

And even if for a moment, I knew it would.