Friday, September 9, 2016


I know it's a little thing, but when you're trying to keep hydrated during the day, and you're avoiding juices, sports drinks, sodas, and other sugary beverages – or worse, beverages with artificial sweeteners – it can be a little blah working on that second quart of water in the afternoon, right? 

My suggestion is this:  go into the baking aisle, usually right near where the spices are, and you will find itty bitty little bottles of flavoring drops. 

Check them out!  There are all kinds of flavors and they are sugar free!  Cherry, orange, strawberry, vanilla, root beer, chocolate, anise, rum, banana, almond, coconut, lime, lemon, grape, mint, cinnamon, and more! 

Your water goes from bland to yum in seconds. 

And, you can flavor other beverages as well: Cherry, banana, or mint in cocoa is yum! Rum, vanilla, or caramel (or a combination) is great in coffee.  Mint, lemon, orange, anise, or vanilla work in tea.

Experiment away, and comment with combinations and beverages of your own.  Love that feedback! 


Friday, March 18, 2016


        Is it me?  I have a friend who just converted an upstairs bedroom into a laundry room so she won’t have to lug her unmentionables up and down two flights of stairs to get them country fresh.  Then, four to five times a week she gets into her car, leaving her kids home with her husband, and goes to a gym to work out on…you guessed it!…a stair climbing machine.  Seems to me carting laundry baskets up and down stairs would accomplish the same thing, perhaps more, since the weight would work on her upper body strength in addition to the workout her legs get from the climbing.

        Why not keep the money in a little college fund for the kids, leave the gas in the car and treat your family to some quality time.  That couple of hours selfishly spent at the gym could be spent in the kitchen with the hubby and kids sharing a low-fat meal.  Then pop in a load of laundry while heading out for a brisk family walk.  The kids can skate or ride bikes if they choose.  So can you for that matter. 

Exercise evokes images of calisthenics and step aerobics….Pfffft!  All you really have to do is keep moving for more than twenty minutes at a time. 

        We’ve created so many power devices for convenience, we’ve sent ourselves into energy overload which translates into stored energy which is FAT.

        I recently bought a manual lawnmower.  The man next door immediately assumed my gas mower wasn’t working properly and offered to check it out for me.  Honest, Russ, I was just looking for a two-fold workout, meaning, an hour later, along with my muscles being worked, my lawn was cut.  For under one hundred bucks you can have warm-weather workouts for years to come with your little grass cutter.  You’d spend a whole lot more than that sweating at the health club, and you’d have to figure out when you’d have time to do the lawn.   

        Before I became disabled, I used to join my kids when they played freeze tag.  Talk about a workout! Just try it out and see if you can keep up with them. 

        Instead of jogging try walking with the kids after dinner.  Or explore a nature trail or a beach if there’s one nearby.  Instead of driving to the Post Office, walk to the mail box.  Not the one at the end of your street.  Find one a healthy walking distance and go to it! 

        We spend a lot of time in gyms designed to simulate work that was second nature to our grandparents.  Manual labor is not indecent.  As a matter of fact, it’s healthy and very satisfying.  Sure you might break a nail scrubbing your floor instead of using a floor scrubber, but your abs will tone up! 

        If you can survive aerobics class wearing wrist and ankle weights you can sure mow the lawn with a manual mower or shovel snow rather than using a machine to blow it away. 

        Instead of tossing dirty dishes into the machine, scrub those pots by hand and get the kids to dry and put away while you tell them the jokes you heard at work, or get them to read to you.

        How many of you have a rowing machine sitting in your basement?  Do you use it?  Don’t lie.  Even if you do, it only seats one, right?  Why not take up canoeing, rafting or kayaking?  It’s more fun, can be done with the family or friends and beats staring at the basement wall or re-runs of Seinfeld. 

        Trade in electric or gas power for elbow grease! 

        Here are some suggestions for substitutions you can make:

  1. Instead of letting the dog out into the yard, grab a baggie and walk the wee beastie. You’ll both get some air and some exercise.
  2. Instead of a treadmill or even a track, try a nature trail, an inclined street, the beach.  Take the dog, the kids or offer to take a neighbor’s dog or kids as a favor. 
  3. Instead of using a stroller or coach constantly, try carrying the kids, switching arms a lot. 
  4. Instead of taking the car try your legs, a bike, blades, especially for any trip under 10 minutes by car.  Get a wagon or cart to lug groceries or recyclables.
  5. Instead of driving to the gym, try exercising at home.
  6. Instead of sophisticated, costly weight-lifting equipment, try milk jugs filled with sand or water or use a towel for resistance.
  7. Instead of aerobics class, memorize the steps and try exercising while watching TV, or play tag, races, or base runners with the kids.
  8. Instead of the skiing machine try skiing!  Snow ski in the winter and water ski in the summer.
  9. Instead of the rowing machine try a real boat.
  10. Instead of the riding mower try a manual mower, or at least a push mower.  And forget bag mowers. Start raking and sweeping.  Ditto on the power edger.  Get a manual one instead!
  11. Instead of a chain saw or power clippers try a manual saw, ax, pruning shears.
  12. Instead of the dishwasher try your hands.  Motion is motion.  Get the kids involved!  Talk to them! 
  13. Instead of vacuuming try sweeping or a damp cloth or a dust brush. Yes, some squatting or kneeling may be required…this is a good thing! 
  14. Instead of exercising in the pool try the ocean. 
  15. Instead of the floor scrubber try your hands and knees, then mop. 
  16. Instead of chemical cleaners try elbow grease.
  17. Instead of hiring a gardener try doing it yourself.  Ask a gardening friend who knows, or buy a book and learn.
  18. Instead of power tools try manual tools and elbow grease.
  19. Instead of the automatic carwash break out the hose and sponge.  While you’re at it, scrub down the deck and the porch furniture.  Get the kids to help, promising to squirt them once in awhile.  Have some fun!

    The added bonus in the savings from not using the power, buying memberships, and paying others to toil will be toned muscles, energy conservation, honest exhaustion rather than fatigue, less air pollution, more diversional workouts, pride in chores done personally, and most of all, time spent with your family who would otherwise be hanging out finding things to do while waiting for you to come home. 
    If you don’t have enough chores of your own to keep you busy, find an elderly person in your neighborhood and do some manual chores for them.  It’ll make you feel good, both physically and emotionally.
            It makes a whole lot more sense to keep fit doing real work than paying to use machines and take classes that simulate it for you.  


If you have sinus congestion, sinus allergies and sinus headaches, before automatically reaching for a decongestant or antihistamine, consider how many different fragrances surround you in your home and at work. 
 Fragrances in an average household: 
 Body wash, shampoo, lipstick, foundation, facial cleansers, hair spray/gel, Chapstick, hand sanitizers, fresh wipes, diapers,   body powder, baby powder, baby oil, foot sprays, acne medicines, deodorant, lotions, moisturizer, perfume, shaving lotion, shaving cream, hair conditioners, plug ins, carpet freshener, bleach (Tilex, Clorox, powdered cleansers like Comet), detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, dishwasher soap, candles, pet hair/supplies, carpet cleaner, spray cleaners, oven cleaners, soap, car air fresheners, kitty litter, Fireplace logs/sprinkles, mouthwash, toothpaste…
 And the list goes on and on and on.  And that is just fragrance added to consumer items.  There’s also a whole list of household chemicals that can damage the sinuses, as well as cause allergic reactions such as hives, rashes and headaches. 
Not to mention what happens if you mix chemicals.  Never use ammonia products and chlorine products together.  (For example Windex and cleanser containing bleach.)  Mixing ammonia and chlorine releases Chlorine gas which is poisonous and lethal. 
My recommendation is to use unscented products as much as possible.  This is kinder to your own body, and the sinuses of others whom you come into contact with during the day.  Whether you suffer from allergies or not, it’s rather unpleasant to be in an elevator or car pool with several people who have marinated in their perfume or after shave. 
As far as cleaning goes, vinegar can be used to clean kitchen surfaces.  I personally fill a spray bottle with vinegar and use it in the microwave (spray the inside of the microwave and run it for a few seconds and then wipe, careful of the hot vinegar), on counter surfaces, windows and mirrors.  It will take care of mildew in the shower.  And the best part is, there’s no chemical residue like from chemical cleaners.  You can clean a counter or cutting board with vinegar and chop veggies on it and it’s completely safe. Plus, a quart of vinegar is less than a dollar.  Can’t say that about a bottle of 409 or Windex! 
 Baking soda can be used in place of carpet freshener.  Corn starch can be used in place of talc and is easier on your lungs. 
Also, everything does not need to be scented.  In fact, scented air fresheners aren’t eliminating odors, they’re masking them and the bacteria that is causing the odor. 
Sometimes the best answer is to clean.  Steam clean a sofa or carpet.  You don’t need heavy duty detergents or cleansers, that’s the point of steam cleaning.  The steam heat kills the bacteria and the odors. 
Hopefully eliminating some of the strong fragrances and chemicals from your daily routine will relieve some of the overload and damage to your sinuses and nasal passages. 


I swore off chocolate over ten years ago, much to the relief of my friends and family.  I realized at that time, that whenever I ate chocolate, within an hour of eating it I would experience impatience and irritability, and if that weren’t bad enough, during the next twelve-hour period I would crash, becoming weepy and depressed.  The depression, depending on how much chocolate I consumed, could last for 24 to 48 hours. 

When I recognized that pattern, I looked up chocolate on the internet and found that it contains phenyl ethylamine in addition to the caffeine I already knew was there. 

Phenyl ethylamine acts on the dopamine levels in the brain and creates a feeling of euphoria.  I’ve read research that says the amount of phenyl ethylamine in chocolate is processed so quickly by the body that it doesn’t have a chance to affect the dopamine levels in the brain and thus produce a mood swing, but I beg to differ.  I know the effect that chocolate has on me every time I eat even a small amount of it, and that is why I choose to avoid it. 

I have a friend who, when I told him of my sensitivity to the chemicals in chocolate, was horrified at the prospect of my never indulging in this particular treat.  He suggested I go to a doctor and get a prescription for a mood elevator. 

This appalled me.  We are talking about the chemical balance of the brain, here, not a little indigestion.  I don’t understand why anyone would risk tampering with delicate balances that govern personality and brain function. 

As a pharmacy technician, I noticed how many people are prescribed mood elevators by well-meaning doctors, and wonder how many of those people could improve their moods swings just by adjusting their diets as I have. 

There are so many potentially harmful substances in the foods we eat it’s hard to know what’s safe.  The best way is to educate yourself as well as possible, keep an eye on your own personality patterns, and adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly. 

Chocolate is off-limits to me because it isn’t worth the mood swings that I experience after I’ve consumed it.  And my loved ones who know how it affects me, are grateful for my self-control. 

Though I do miss brownies…

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Dangerous Pharmacy Distractions


Terri DelCampo

After seven years as a retail pharmacy technician, I can speak for the dangers of on-the-job multi-tasking.   We are not selling popsicles.  We are selling serious medications that can be lethal if we make mistakes. Yet, distractions ruled as I entered, counted and packaged prescription medications for my oh-so-trusting customers.    

Fourteen hour shifts filled with music, commercials, and propaganda; oh my!

A constant, fourteen hour bombardment of satellite music is interrupted by even louder commercials and marketing propaganda, coming through the speaker situated in the ceiling right above the prescription drop-off counter. Hearing important prescription information is difficult (and sometimes impossible for hearing-impaired customers). 

Typical shift walk-through. 

Late afternoon, about a minute after five as I enter the pharmacy.  I greet the customer waiting at the register with, “I’ll be right with you,” turn to the window register where I clock in, drop my purse in the cabinet below the counter and shrug into my lab coat.

The pharmacist, asks me to get the window, “They were first.”  I do so, accepting a prescription from Mr. X.  “Date of birth, please?”  He wastes time arguing. “I’m in the computer.”  “Yes, but we look up your information with your name and date of birth,” I explain.  He gives me the date of birth.  How long will that take?”  I glance back at the bench, to see how piled up things are and shrug, turning back.  “About twenty minutes.  Is the insurance we have in your profile current?”  “Oh!  That’s right, I have a new card,” he says, fishing it out of his wallet.  I promise him I'll work quickly, thinking I should have said thirty minutes, considering probable insurance glitches, and dinner hour rush.  He leaves, and after another drive-up customer, I can get started on Mr. X.  Or so I think. 

A lady brings items to the pharmacy counter to avoid register lines up front.  She hands me a coupon that doesn’t work. Short on time, I page the manager to deal with it, and return to Mr. X’s script. 

As I pull up his profile the phone rings, announced by the automated phone voice that repeats “One Pharmacy Call” until the phone is answered, creating distractions for staff trying to concerntrate on customers and tasks at hand.  I grab the phone to receive and enter three prescriptions from Mrs. Q. She's out of her meds. I generate a label and provide a couple of pills until her doctor authorizes the refill. 

As I enter Mr. X's insurance information, another tech asks me to decipher a hand-written script.

Then a customer asks, “Do you have a rest room?”  I give them the key pad code and watch as they start to enter the stock room which would set off the alarm.  “No Ma’am, all the way in the corner,” I reiterate, my patience waning for people who can't follow simple directions. 

Mr. X. -- Eleven of the twenty minutes I promised have elapsed.  So now I hurry. 

Excuse me, do you carry Tea Tree Oil?” another voice from the drop-off.  As she follows my directions to it, she is oblivious to her little boy poking the boxes of Mucinex, watching them topple like dominoes. Only I see the mess her child is leaving in his wake. 

Unlike most insurance companies, who only require a doctor's DEA number to be recorded on a script, Mr. X’s requires his doctor’s state license number as well.  That requires an in-depth search and then the number entered manually. 

No time to pee. 

Then Mr. X’s insurance rejects his claim because of the amount prescribed which I will have to explain to him later.  I edit the prescription. 

I wait on a customer at the register with the huge pile of items, once again abandoning Mr. X’s script. 

She has seven clearance items which don’t scan and must be rung up manually.  She forgot her Discount Card.  The third phone number I enter works to pull up the card.  I remind her to update her profile information, writing the number on the receipt for her, cursing the marketing ploys that waste my time. 

Someone printed Mr. X's label while I was at the counter, so I attach it to a bag, pull the drug, and write a note on the label about the insurance issue.  He's back at the window.  I rush counting the pills and bottling them.  I hear him shout at April.  “She told me twenty minutes!  It’s been half an hour!  How long does it take to count a few pills!”  April politely explains the time variables. 

The scan fails when I sweep the vial beneath it.  It’s the right drug and the right strength, but a new manufacturer, and the change wasn’t reflected in the computer.  I edit the script and change the NDC, (National Drug Code) while Mr. X’s steams at the window. 

Impatient Mr. X watches from the window, as I wait for the pharmacist to verify the drug.  He is doing a phone consultation as Mr. X glares at me. 

Finally at the window.  “Sorry about the wait, Mr. X.”
“It’s been more than half an hour!”
“We can only estimate fill times, sir, there are many variables.  Plus, your insurance gave me a couple of issues to deal with.” “Oh?” “Your doctor wrote for ninety days and your insurance only allows thirty days at a time.” “So I lose sixty pills?” he interrupts, defensive.  “No, they go on file.  So you have the remaining 60 pills, plus three refills of 90.  That’s a year's supply of this prescription.” I explain, seeing two cars visible behind Mr. X.  And probably more around the back corner of the building. 

I ring him up. He forgot his discount card, and tells me to forget it he’s running late.  I have to try the phone number or risk getting written up for not completing register procedure, including having him sign the receipt and the sticker sheet saying he’s received counseling or didn’t require it. 

He throws the clipboard on the windowsill, tosses his script on the car seat and peels out.

An already impatient next customer pulls up to the window and goes ballistic when I tell her it’ll take thirty minutes.  “Just to slap a label on an Astelin box!” I explain there are 14 scripts in queue ahead of hers, and a person at the register, all there before the man she followed.  She said, “Well you obviously need more help!” “I would be eternally grateful if you called the customer service line and mentioned that,” I replied softly.  Compassion in her eyes, she nods, agreeing to do that. 

As the commercials, the ringing phone, and the automated voice announcing the drive-ups with a vengeance continue. 

During 10 to 14 hour shifts, almost every pharmacy staff member deals with some sort of pain, aggravated by standing without breaks all day. 

Bathroom breaks are almost non-existent.  And often there’s no paper or soap which means spending those precious break minutes finding the manager to initial products before using them. 

Additional script frustrations include:

Prior authorization required.  An annoying, 2-10 day process where the doctor must explain to the insurance company why he’s prescribing a particular drug instead of the insurance company’s preferred drug (on formularies that insurance companies change at whim). 

Inventory glitches make partial fills which require a time consuming, manually entered label necessary, and often angers customers who must return for the balance of the fill the next day. 

Incorrectly or incoherently written scripts require pharmacy staff to contact doctor’s offices or hospitals that have automated phone systems. Faxing saves time, but sometimes it’s vital to speak directly with the physician. 

Pharmacy outreach calls mean extra, unnecessary work that leaves customers feeling nagged, and pharmacists resenting the waste of their time. For the staff, it takes up down time between rushes - really, when are we supposed to go pee? 

There are many register issues. 
Pharmacies are banks, offering cash back which means change runs to the office.

Pharmacy staff are coupon expiration police.

We are guards against customers abusing the "Transfer-your-script-to-us-get-a-gift-card Deal."

We're expected to be security guards, pursuing shoplifters who may or may not be dangerous. 

Customers argue with the pharmacist’s advice once he's offered the opinion they requested.   

And through all of this, the commercials babble on…
…and on…
…and on….

Thursday, July 30, 2015



(Get rid of that post lunch carb funk and shine in the afternoon.)

Don't mistake that afternoon funk for fatigue.  In many cases it turns out to be a life-sucking carb coma a couple of hours after lunch.  An article I read about insomnia suggested a high carbohydrate snack two hours before bed to induce drowsiness.  I started thinking about lunches that most people consume:  Sandwiches, pasta salads, French fries, potato chips, baked potatoes, wraps, burritos, pizza, etc.  Almost all lunch fare is high in carbohydrates, which means that a couple of hours later you're gonna crash.  I thought perhaps some rearrangement might help. 

Go for proteins and veggies early in the day.  Heavy duty proteins crank up your metabolism and energize your body for hours as they're digested and released into your system, so consume them early in the day for sustained energy and alertness.

Be adventurous and discard meal segregation.  I have never been one to relegate foods to certain times of day, so you can find me eating leftover stir-fry for breakfast and Cheerios for dinner just about any time.  If you expand your breakfast menu to encompass all foods, you'll have a lot more variety in your morning meals, but several traditional breakfast foods more than fill the protein bill:  omelets, cheese, sausage, yogurt (plain with fresh or juice-packed canned fruit stirred in, add cinnamon for heart healthiness), cottage cheese with some fruit, (try a little unsweetened apple butter!).  Peach halves stuffed with cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon is a favorite of mine. Smoothies with plain yogurt and fresh fruit (and a little peanut butter if you're a fanatic like me) are great for on-the-go. 

Eat when your body signals that it's truly hungry.  Don't get hungry until late morning?  Then go for a late breakfast or early lunch.  More a lunch than dinner person?  Make lunch your main, high-protein, high vegetable, low carb meal of the day and go lighter for dinner. 

Evening is the time to start winding down.  You've given your body the energy-stoking proteins it needs to stay charged and alert all afternoon, and completed all the activities you've planned for the day without nodding off even once.  

Go for carbohydrates for dinner and evening snacks, particularly if you suffer from insomnia. Dinnertime is when to go for that nice pasta salad, baked potato, or spaghetti with marinara. 

Low-fat carbohydrates are ideal for snacks about two hours before bed.  That's when you want to set yourself up to crash.  I crunch away on dry cereals mixed up and sprinkled with cinnamon (very heart healthy).  Popcorn, toast and some herbal tea like chamomile, baked chips or rice cakes.  All good. 

With your carbohydrate calories reserved for the end of the day, you can relax and count on nodding off for a great night's sleep, and in turn waking up refreshed and ready to stoke up with protein to start your activity cycle all over again.


Insomnia article